MANILA – Aid for fisherfolk affected by the oil spill in Mindoro in February is past the cash relief aspect and has shifted to trainings to help them recover from the disaster, Social Welfare and Development Secretary Rex Gatchalian said.

In a Palace briefing on Tuesday, Gatchalian said distribution of food packs to the affected residents continues in coordination with the provincial government, but noted that disaster response has multiple stages.

In the case of Oriental Mindoro, it is now in the early recovery stage.

He said this is where the livelihood trainings being extended by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) come in.

“That’s why the aid may not be in the form of cash now but in the form of equipment (and) training,” he said.

The oil spill on Feb. 28 was caused by oil tanker MT Princess Empress, which was carrying some 900,000 liters of industrial fuel when it sank off the waters of Naujan. It also affected the waters of Palawan and Antique provinces.

Gatchalian explained that since the oil spill happened six months ago, relief measures should move from just the response period, citing that fishing grounds have reopened.

“So gusto natin unti-unti manumbalik na sa normal ‘yung kanilang mga pamumuhay and that’s where the other departments come in the picture (We want them to slowly regain their livelihood and that’s where the other departments come in the picture),” he said.

He clarified that DSWD will not pull out from the province, noting that it has a field office in the area.

“And we’ll also get in touch with (Oriental Mindoro) Gov. (Humerlito) Bons (Dolor) again and again. And as well as (with the) local chief executives to figure out kung ano pa ‘yung mga dapat gawin (to figure out what else needs to be done),” he added.

In a televised briefing on Monday, Mayor Jennifer Cruz of Pola town said they have received some funding from the Department of Budget and Management for livelihood programs for some 4,800 affected fisherfolk.

She said the residents received food items and have benefited from the 15-day cash-for-work program of the government. However, she is still waiting for additional funding to be able to train more fisherfolk. 

Meanwhile, Gatchalian said the policy of the DSWD, based on the instruction of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr., is to work with the local government units (LGUs).

“In the case of Mindoro, we have reported this numerous times now, the delivery of food packs continued when the oil spill was running. We delivered multiple waves, two or three waves of emergency cash transfers to include the town of Pola and all other towns affected. We also launched cash-for-work there similar with the DOLE [Department of Labor and Employment) so that the interventions are multiple,” the DSWD chief pointed out.

The DSWD reported that some 40,583 beneficiaries of cash-for-work have received financial assistance amounting to PHP228,190,450 in Mimaropa (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon, Palawan) Region.

The DSWD Mimaropa Field Office also released a total of 294,295 family food packs (FFPs) to residents in areas severely affected by the oil spill.

Despite the resumption of fishing activities in the areas affected by the oil spill, Gatchalian said he has been communicating with the governor of Mindoro Oriental to ask for other possible interventions they may deliver.

Nakikipag-usap tayo sa ating gubernador kung ano pang mga interventions ang kanyang kailangan at ang sabi nga nya, mag-usap kami ulit sa mga darating na araw. Oobserbahan nila kung saang towns pa yung mga nangangailangan (We are talking with to the governor about other interventions that they need. For now, he said we will communicate again in the coming days because they still need to observe which towns still need assistance),” he said. (With a report from Zaldy de Loyola/PNA)