BICOL, PHILIPPINES — Philippine fisherfolk are among the poorest sectors in the Philippines and are among the most vulnerable to natural hazards and extreme weather conditions.
In 2020 alone, three consecutive typhoons devastated Lagonoy Gulf, heavily affecting fifteen municipalities. Whole fishing communities lost not only their homes but also their means of livelihood, their boats.
World Wide Fund (WWF) Philippines has worked with the fishers of Lagonoy Gulf for over a decade in establishing the country’s first sustainable Marine Stewardship Council-certified handline tuna fishery. As committed partners, WWF and the tuna fishing communities collaborated on ways to “Build Back Better” post-disaster, with the latest efforts anchored on replacing the wooden fishing boats that were lost or damaged during the typhoons.
The “Build Back Better” boats, co-designed by industrial designer Mark Victor Bautista and the tuna fishermen, is an innovation combining traditional know-how and state of the art/best practice design technology. The boats will be made of a combination of fiberglass and steel, making for sturdier hulls that can withstand increasing storm intensities. The boats will also have features that will help maintain the quality of tuna catch and support other conditions of the tuna fishery’s sustainable certification.
WWF hopes to raise Php 21 million to deliver 27 units of these Build Back Better boats. One new boat is equivalent in capacity to three traditional fishing boats, and would translate to support for more than 200 families in 15 municipalities in the Lagonoy Gulf area.
Celebrity couple and WWF-Philippines Ambassador Pia Wurtzbach and WWF-USA Ambassador Jeremy Jauncey went on a trip to Albay in late April to meet the Lagonoy Gulf fishermen and see for themselves how the “Build Back Better” campaign is helping fishers improve their livelihood by applying environmental sustainability principles. Pia and Jeremy also went on one of the Build Back Better boats to see up-close the benefits of its design and material.
The couple are staunch supporters of WWF and are known to be passionate about their advocacies.
“It’s high time that our local fishers have more access to stronger boats to make their living. The stories of our fishers represent the challenges faced by thousands of Filipinos who continue to work hard for their families, and we are inviting everyone to help them recuperate through the ‘Build Back Better’ campaign,” shared Pia Wurtzbach.
“This trip to the Lagonoy Gulf has not only been educational for me and Pia but also affirming for us. One boat at a time, we can help change the lives of several fishers and their communities through the ‘Build Back Better’ campaign,” added Jeremy Jauncey.
“We hope that many more people, companies, and organizations join in this Build Back Better campaign because of the long lasting and transformational impact we can make together. Our experience working with the Lagonoy Gulf fishers validates a model for sustainable fishing that has improved community livelihood. We all need to support communities that are at the forefront of addressing environmental issues,” said Ms. Katherine Custodio, WWF-Philippines Executive Director.
WWF-Philippines continues to explore new ways to help the fishers of Bicol as the organization moves further into long-term recovery and sustainability efforts. WWF is committed to its partner communities, most especially those that are in the frontlines of the dual challenge of nature conservation and climate change.
For parties who are interested in supporting the “Build Back Better” Boats campaign, you may visit Pia Wurtzbach and Jeremy Jauncey’s SimplyGiving fundraising page at simplygiving.com/event/pia-jeremy-wwf or reach out to Campaign Lead Ismael John Cabigao (firstname.lastname@example.org).
To know more about WWF-Philippines and its initiatives, please visit https://wwf.org.ph/.