A Mother’s weed story

The journey of fighting drugs has no singular story. It comes with various faces with different emotions and reasons.  

It was a gloomy Tuesday when we were about to traverse the 18-kilometer, mostly rough, and muddy road of Sasaba, La Union to meet people who are about to complete the program of the government relative to its war on drugs. Riding on habal-habal, we were not stopped by the drizzling weather to arrive at the Lutheran Church where the recovering drug personalities (RDPs) or Katipuneros happily waited and welcomed us. A woman in pink shirt immediately served native pork stew and fresh tomatoes with onions as a side dish for lunch. As we took a quick lunch, the RDPs were silently listening to our huddle. When we all have already taken our meals, we immediately proceeded to conduct a discussion and beside me was the woman in pink shirt carrying her granddaughter. She is Anastacia Baludda, a 49-year old mother with seven children. At first, Anastacia intently listened to the narrations of her co-RDPs on how they became members of the Samahang Pangkabuhayan ng Sasaba at Sapdaan (SPSS), a group affiliated to the Pagsadagan nga Agturong Raniag ken Ekonomiya Sustainable Livelihood Program Association (PARE SLPA) of DSWD Field Office 1. Same as other groups of PARE SLPA, SPSS received PhP54,000.00 livelihood assistance to start anew after winning their own drug battles. When Anastacia was asked what enterprise she entered into, she proudly shared that she is now a kapeng barako (black coffee) maker who retails her goods in the locality.

When I had the chance to personally converse with Anastacia, she invited me to her humble home just a few steps behind the Lutheran Church. We started talking about her family. “Ang aking asawa ay nasa Muntinlupa (New Bilibid Prison). Naikulong siya noong 2012 dahil sa paghahatid ng marijuana (My husband is in the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa. He was convicted in 2012 because of marijuana transport),” a teary-eyed Anastacia started. She continued narrating, “Isang gabi, nagpaalam ang aking asawa na matutulog siya sa bukid kung saan kami nagtatrabaho. Kinaumagahan, pumunta ako sa sari-sari store ng aking nakababatang kapatid para bumili ng asukal. May balitang may mga nahuli ng pulis na nagdeliver ng marijuana sa San Gabriel, La Union. Kinabahan na ako. Pero may nakarinig sa radyo na ang aking asawa ay isa sa mga nakulong. Napahagulgol na lang ako (One night, my husband asked permission to sleep in the farm where we work. The following morning, I went to the store of my younger sibling to buy sugar. There was news that there were people who were captured by the police officers for transporting marijuana to San Gabriel, La Union. I was nervous then. However, someone heard on the radio that my husband was one of those who were convicted. I just cried heavily).”

Shock and devastation were the initial reactions of losing her husband in their home. “Hindi ko alam kung paano ko bubuhayin ang pito kong anak. Pinuntahan ko kaagad ang aking asawa sa kulungan kasama ang aking mga anak (I do not know how I will raise my seven children. I immediately visited my husband in the prison together with my children),” Anastacia continued while wiping her tears. Because her husband could not do anything but regret, he told Anastacia to be stronger and not do as he did – becoming a drug courier. Anastacia and her children left the prison crying and with heavy hearts. Just like the ordinary days, Anastacia has to face reality and continue working as a paid farmer to nurture her children and send them to school. However, burdened with multiple responsibilities, her meager income barely makes ends meet. One day, a friend encouraged her to transport marijuana to nearby municipalities to gain bigger income. At first, she hesitated but with no options left, she became a marijuana courier earning PhP200.00 per kilo of marijuana that will be delivered to the heart of mountains or any hidden place where they secretly trade. Anastacia was then able to provide some household essentials because of her new work; however, it lasted only for a year because of fear, guilt, and agitation. She stopped trading marijuana. She considered becoming a marijuana courier her biggest mistake in life. “Hindi na ako nakatutulog ng maaayos. Palagi akong kinakabahan (I can barely sleep. I was always nervous),” revealed Anastacia relative to her marijuana, or some called it as weed, trading.

When President Duterte’s war on drugs was carried out, local government units (LGUs) including Santol, La Union took heed of the call to eliminate all forms of illegal drug activities in the Philippines. To support the Administration’s plight on illegal drugs battle, DSWD established a program tagged as “Yakap Bayan” aiming to turn RDPs to community leaders and volunteers and active citizens in the society. In Santol, the RDPs or Katipuneros underwent a rehabilitation from April 2017 to November 2017 at the Itigil at Talikuran Na ang Droga, Ngayon Na! (ITAN) Reflection Camp conceptualized by the LGU in the same year. ITAN was patterned on DSWD’s Yakap Bayan Framework in providing aftercare and reintegration services to former drug dependents.

When LGU Santol called the attention of all drug personalities in town, Anastacia and the other 26 drug personalities in Sasaba (the most number of RDPs in the municipality) went to the municipal hall to signify participation in the rehabilitation process. Anastacia was very ashamed and anxious after knowing that she was on the list. This is not only because of the social stigma and stereotype labeling them as offenders of societal laws and cultural norms that destroy the people’s lives including the future generation, but also of her broken promise to her husband.

Despite the revelation, blaming inside the home has no room.  Her husband was also informed about what happened to his wife, but there was no fault-finding after all. The journey towards rehabilitation has started. During their 6-month   activities in ITAN Reflection Camp, she was able to actualize all her wrongdoings and unacceptable behaviors. She was able to forgive and give herself new opportunities to make up for her past mistakes. As activities progress in the Camp, her spiritual character progressed too. She was able to find divine intervention and understand that one must be freed from social expectations to find peace and contentment. “Noong una, nahirapan ako pero sinuportahan ako ng aking mga anak. May mga panahong nanghihina at nagugutom akong pumupunta sa Kampo pero mas malakas ang aking pagnanasa na matapos ko lahat ng aktibidades. Gusto ko talagang bumalik sa dating ako (At first, it was difficult, but my children supported me. There were times that I felt weak and hungry going to the Camp, but my desire to finish all the activities was stronger. I wanted to regain my old self),” narrated Anastacia while smiling. Anastacia and the other RDPs were not only able to appreciate the spiritual processes that improved their lives but they were also trained to become productive microentrepreneurs.

After the rehabilitation scheme of the LGU, the RDPs received seed capital fund as part of the reintegration program to jumpstart ventures into various enterprises aligned with their skills and interests. Anastacia received PhP7,000.00 capital assistance which she used in her kapeng barako making and retailing. She buys raw materials in the neighborhood and packs her finished products into ¼ kilo which she sells to LGU Santol staff and locals amounting to PhP80.00 per pack. Anastacia, while giggling, shared that she gains at most PhP40.00 per pack in selling the organic coffee, a fortune for a homemaker and a budding entrepreneur. Seasonal in nature, Anastacia’s coffee business stability is not guaranteed, therefore, she wanted to have a steady source of income. Since MSWDO Eunice Nabehet provided a freezer to SPSS, Anastacia had a bright idea. She rented the freezer and pays a monthly fee of PhP100.00 to SPSS. Some of the income from her coffee retailing was used to purchase frozen foods, fresh bangus and tilapia, pork, and chicken which she sells to her neighbors. Her buy and sell business is a big help to the barangay because when some do not have to cook for viands, they can buy at Anastacia’s home. This is a huge relief to the people because they can save at least PhP160.00 jeepney fare or PhP600.00 habal-habal fee going to and from the Poblacion. Anastacia’s thriving business now augments to their household requirements.

To sustain the gains of the reintegration project, Santol Mayor Magno A. Wailan hired kamineros or individuals who do road and path cleaning and clearing. Some of the RDPs including Anastacia were hired as kamineros and were paid PhP170.00 per day. After showing satisfactory work performance, Anastacia is now working as a regular kaminero in the LGU receiving PhP250.00 wage per day. “Malaking tulong ang trabahong binigay ng munisipyo sa akin. Hinding-hindi na ako babalik sa aking dating gawain (The work that the local government provided to me is a big help. I will never ever go back to my previous undertakings),” happily shared by Anastacia. She has realized that whatever circumstances we have experienced, as long as we have the desire to change, it would require us to work towards something better for ourselves. 

While we are going back to Lutheran Church where our companions have been waiting, Anastacia revealed her aspiration to eliminate marijuana prevalence. She said that the government must improve the road situations in their barangay to increase mobility and ease the transport of goods to Poblacion. The reliability of good road network which limits their chances to have greater access to other opportunities has been a major issue in improving their local economy. If there is one thing that Anastacia has learned from the government, it is to never be afraid to surrender since peace and development is a shared responsibility.

Now, Anastacia is a reformed woman. She aims that every woman, regardless of dark past or deprived situation, stand up and face reality because once a woman stands up for herself, she stands up for all the women of the humanity. # by: Darwin T. Chan, Social Marketing Unit

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RRCY residents and staff recognize as Blood Services Awardees

Ms. Leah Mylen L. Lucero (second from right, first line), SWO IV/Center Head receive the Certificate of Appreciation for RRCY as Blood Service Awardees.

It is better to give than to receive. This is true to the RRCY staff and residents who have voluntarily donated blood for those in direly needing it.

The DSWD Field Office 1 – Regional Rehabilitation Center for Youth (RRCY) was awarded and recognized as Blood Services Awardees during the culmination of Blood Donors Month of Philippine Red Cross – La Union Chapter with the theme “Safe blood for all. Donate blood. Save lives” held at Diego Silang Hall, Provincial Capitol, City of San Fernando, La Union. The RRCY residents and staff as regular blood donors have greatly contributed to this recognition.

The bloodletting activity in the Center began on 22 November 2018. Since then, the Center regularly donates blood every quarter to promote social responsibility among the staff and residents, and to educate them the benefits of voluntary blood donation.

Magaan po ang aking pakiramdam at masaya din po ako na nakakapag-donate ako ng dugo dahil alam ko na ito ay maibibigay sa mga nangangailangan (I am light-hearted and happy at the same time for donating my blood because I know that this will be given to those who are needing it)”, shared Ben (not his real name), a RRCY resident .

Dan (Not his real name) and the PRC volunteer nurse during the blood donation in RRCY conference hall.

“Ang boluntaryong pagbibigay ng dugo ng mga staff at residente ay napakalaking tulong din sa Sentro lalo na at may isang residente na minsan nang nangailangan ng dugo dahil sa dengue. Sa bawat sampung bag ng dugo kalakip nito ay isang voucher na matatanggap ng Sentro. Ito ay maaaring gamitin ng mga nangangailangang salinan ng dugo. Maliban dito, ang Sentro ay isa sa mga priority na bibiyan ng dugo kung may mga di inaasahang pangyayari (The voluntary blood donation of the staff and residents is a huge help to the Center especially that there was already a resident who needed a blood transfusion before because of dengue. Ten bags of blood collected is equivalent to 1 voucher for the Center. This can be used by the staff and residents needing such. In addition, the Center is one of the priorities to be given with blood supplies in cases of emergencies),” shared Ms. Adelyn Casilla, Center Nurse.

RRCY’s bloodletting has continuously advocated the voluntary, non-remunerated blood donation to ensure that all individuals and communities have access to affordable and timely supply of safe and quality-assured blood and blood products. It has also developed positive outlook in life among the residents of the Center, that despite of their socio-economic status in life, or even if they have committed an offense/s, they still can contribute to the nation-building and become productive citizens of the country. # By: Vincent Paul V. Ruiz, SWO II/Documentation Focal, Regional Rehabilitation Center for Youth

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DSWD FO 1 augments relief supplies to Storm Ineng-affected families

DSWD Field Office (FO) 1 continuously provides family food packs (FFPs) to Local Government Units (LGUs) that need relief supply augmentation to be directly distributed to individuals and families affected by Severe Tropical Storm Ineng.

DSWD Secretary Bautista (rightmost) listens to the requests of a barangay official needing additional relief supplies to storm-affected households.

As of the latest data of Disaster Response Management Division, the Department has already augmented 1,000 FFPs on 25 August 2019 while today, 27 August 2019, there are 3,000 pre-positioned FFPs that will be distributed to the storm-affected individuals in various municipalities in Ilocos Norte. Further, 5,000 FFPs, in staggered deliveries, are expected to be transported from the National Resource and Logistics Management Bureau to Ilocos Norte.

To evaluate the extent of the massive floods that submerged some houses caused by the storm and to assess the situation of the people in Ilocos Norte, DSWD Secretary Rolando Joselito D. Bautista personally visited the storm-affected individuals particularly in Brgy. Gabu, Laoag City. During the visit, the Secretary talked with some barangay officials in Laoag City wherein additional assistance were requested and immediately provided to the affected barangays. Further, Secretary Bautista also had a meeting with Ilocos Norte Governor Matthew J. Marcos Manotoc and Office of the Civil Defense 1 Director Melchito Castro relative to the extent of the damage caused by the typhoon. Per report, there are 22 totally- and 44 partially-damaged houses in the Province of Ilocos Norte.

To maintain stockpile of relief goods, volunteers have flocked to DSWD FO 1 Regional Warehouse to help in the repacking of FFPs that will be immediately distributed to affected households. “Ang pagiging volunteer ay mahalaga para matulungan natin ang ating mga kababayan na nasalanta ng Bagyong Ineng. Ang pagboboluntaryo ay tatak ng isang tunay na Pilipino (Being a volunteer is important in order to help our countrymen who were affected by Typhoon Ineng. Becoming a volunteer is a sign of a true Filipino),” said Helen Tailan, a volunteer from Caba, La Union.

Volunteers from Caba, La Union help in repacking family food packs.

DSWD FO 1 regional warehouse maintains a standby stockpile of 30,000 FFPs for any disaster. Further, the four satellite warehouses in the Region ensures that the minimum stockpiles are readily available to accommodate the requests of all LGUs and serve all disaster affected families. Trading or resale of relief supplies that are intended for distribution to disaster victims is prohibited by Republic Act No. 10121 or the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010. # by: Darwin T. Chan, SSocial Marketing Unit

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Former CICL now a Cop

PO3 Jethro Fabros, while sharing his testimonies during the 1st Semester SWD Forum at Leisure Coast Resort, Dagupan City, Pangasinan.

Jethro Fabros, 30 years old, a former resident of the Regional Rehabilitation Center for Youth (RRCY) is living proof that despite life challenges anyone can become a better person from yesterday with hope, determination to continue, and faith to God.

“DSWD is a blessing in disguise para sa akin, pinadala ako rito [sa RRCY] ng Panginoon to become a better person dahil may mas maganda pala siyang plano sa buhay ko” (DSWD is a blessing in disguise for me, I was sent by God in RRCY to become a better person because he has a plan for my life)Jethro shared during the 1st Semester Social Welfare and Development (SWD) Forum held at Leisure Coast Resort, Dagupan City on 23 May 2019.

His RRCY story began when he was accused of violating Republic Act 8353 otherwise known as the Anti-Rape Law of 1997. On 2 July 2003, he was arrested by police officers in the school where he pursued his secondary education .

“Katorse anyos palang po ako noon. Hindi ko alam ang gagawin ko, para akong nabagsakan ng langit at lupa dahil sa nangyari. At kinabukasan ay dinala agad ako sa RRCY. Noong una, maraming katanungan ang nasa isip ko, bakit ako nandito sa lugar, wala akong kakilala at malayo sa pamilya, napapaiyak nalang ako” (I was 14 years old at that time. I didn’t know what to do, I felt like the heaven and earth fell over me. And the next day, I was immediately admitted in RRCY. At first, questions keep on flashing on my mind, why am I here, I do not even know anyone, and I am far from my family. I just cried) he added in his testimonial .

But through it all, Jethro remained optimistic, believing what happened was the plan of God. His longing to his family has made him stronger. He managed to adjust and coped up with the structured activities and slowly became more equipped with skills and knowledge while in the Center.

“Pero naramdaman ko na masaya pala dito [RRCY], may mga recreational activities and livelihood programs. Actually, dito ako natutong gumawa ng cross stitch” (But I slowly felt that it’s happy here, there are recreational activities and livelihood programs. Actually, I was able to learn how to cross stitch in RRCY) he recalled.

With his passion to finish his education, he took the Accreditation and Equivalency Test – Alternative Learning System (ALS) in May 2005 and out of 100 takers only three of them passed. After a month, the case filed against him was dismissed. He was discharged from the Center and he wanted to continue with his studies, however, admission test of public schools were already closed.  

But God has never stopped showering him with blessings. His lawyer told him to enroll Bachelor of Science in Criminology in a private school and he will shoulder all the expenses.  From then, his life journey has continued outside the Center. He graduated in college in 2009 and he was able to pass the Criminologist Board Examination in 2010. He entered the Philippine National Police in 2011 and has been in the service for 8 years already. He received numerous awards and commendations for his good public service and he is now a Police Staff Sergeant (Police Officer 3) assigned in Ramos Police Station, Tarlac Police Provincial Office. Among all of these, he considers his loving wife and his soon to be born baby as his greatest blessings.

Despite his admission in RRCY, Jethro, a young police officer has accepted ordeals as a blessing in disguise in becoming a better person he is today. Indeed, his RRCY experience has molded him to withstand all the challenges in life. # By: Vincent Paul V. Ruiz, SWO II/Documentation Focal, Regional Rehabilitation Center for Youth (RRCY) 1

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Ilocos Norte is winning battle on climate change

Everlina Agrade smiles after removing the unwanted plants around the rambutan plant.

Ilocos Norte is vulnerable to almost all types of natural hazards because of its geographical location. Yearly, the country experiences an average of 20 tropical cyclones, eight of which hit the Province. Alarmed by the effects of the tropical cyclones and the dire forecast of drought, soil erosion, month-long flooding, and siltation, the Provincial Government assessed its environmental situation and forest cover through a geo-hazard mapping which identified the municipalities of Solsona and Dingras as particularly high-risk areas where soil erosion, flooding, and drought are prevalent, especially in Barangays Puttao, Sta. Ana, and Nagpatpatan in Solsona, and Barangays Francisco, San Marcelino, and Barong in Dingras. The environmental assessment further showed that the majority of the forest cover had been denuded due to indiscriminate cutting of trees for human consumption and commercial purposes tantamount to the destruction of Ilocos Norte’s carbon sinks: forests, coastal habitats, and vegetation. 

The Provincial Government then set a goal to develop more adaptable communities and lessen flood-prone areas to become more resilient against unpredictable and natural force by tapping the Ilocos Norte Environment and Natural Resources Office (INENRO) and Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office (PSWDO) to create a wide range of project that aims to improve the environment with emphasis on sustainability. The birth of Green Wall of Ilocos Norte then came into reality, a well-planned project that establishes greeneries from the ridge to reef by planting a variety of tree species and mangroves that will enrich road networks and the environment. The Green Wall is also eyed to be integrated with the localized greening program in all cities/municipalities in Ilocos Norte to safeguard watershed areas to sustain agricultural productivity.

With the limited fund of the Green Wall, the Provincial Government tapped the Department of Social Welfare and Development Field Office 1 (DSWD FO 1) to support and sustain the project through Cash-For-Work (CFW) under the Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation (CCAM) project. The CFW is a 10-day undertaking wherein recipients received 75% of the prevailing daily wage rate set by the National Wages and Productivity Commission. In the case of Region 1, the minimum regional wage rate is PhP280.00, thus, the individuals who participated in the temporary work such as rehabilitation of denuded watershed areas, establishment of green walls, and establishment and maintenance of mangrove plantation site received PhP210.00 daily. “Malaking tulong ang natanggap namin mula sa Cash-For-Work kasi naibili namin ng aming mga pangangailangan sa bahay. Higit pa roon, nakatulong kami sa aming barangay para mapangalagaan ito (The assistance we received from Cash-For-Work is a big help to augment in purchasing our household needs. More than that, we were able to help protect our barangay),” said Everlina Agrade, a member of Saguigui Tribe Council Incorporation, an Indigenous Peoples group at Barangay Saguigui, Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte. In addition, Emilio Rabago, the chieftain of the aforementioned tribe, pledged to plant more fruit-bearing trees to fight climate change and to produce good harvests that will yield additional income. Despite the knowledge that the CFW is a short-term income-generating activity, the chief aspired that the CFW be a continuing initiative to provide decent income to the residents and sustain environmental protection beneficial to the next generation. Emilio thanked the DSWD for providing opportunities to both acquire income and fight the disturbing effects of climate change.

With the success of protecting the forest, the Provincial Government launched the Ilocos Norte Blue Wall, the shoreline counterpart to the Province’s Green Wall which focuses on planting mangroves to protect the coastlines and the inhabitants. In Gabu, Laoag City, the coastal barangay has successfully planted and grown more than 20 hectares of mangroves that will help ensure greater food security, improve protection against natural disasters, increase household incomes for the local communities, and sustain climate stabilization.

According to Estrella C. Sacro, Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Officer of Ilocos Norte, “We need to be always ready and resilient whenever disaster will occur. We converge and harmonize our resources with various national government agencies to ensure project sustainability. We thank DSWD for augmenting funds for the Cash-For-Work project that helped in the fast project implementation,” she shared.

DSWD Field Office 1 augmented PhP20Million for Ilocos Norte’s Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation – CFW project. # By: Darwin T. Chan, Social Marketing Unit with reports from INERO.  

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More than 11,000 Barangay Ranger Officers protect Ilocos Norte

80-year-old Virgilio Batulan poses after the interview.

Since its inception in 2016, the Province of Ilocos Norte has now produced more than 11,000 Barangay Ranger Officers (BROs) who ensure the sustainability of the Provincial Greening Program dubbed as the “Ilocos Norte Green Wall” which aims to restore forest cover and protect the Ilocos Norte Watershed in the municipalities of Badoc, Pinili, Nueva Era, Solsona, Carasi, Vintar, Pasuquin, Bangui, Pagudpud, and Adams. Considered as the sentinels of the Green Wall, these BROs water and weed seedlings, and patrol and guard the forest areas against illegal loggers, forest fire, and slash and burn operations (kaingin) to increase seedling survival rates.

Progressive Results

Kaingin and charcoal production have been few of the major contributors in the global warming and climate change. Through the Ilocos Norte Environment and Natural Resources Office (INENRO) and Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office (PSWDO), strategic initiatives and continuous environmental campaigns such as the enactment of the Green Wall, a part of the Ilocos Norte’s climate change adaptation and mitigation (CCAM) projects, is implemented to arrest the observable effects of global climate change.  As such, the BROs heighten security in the forest and mountains and eliminate the incidence of kaingin and forest fires to promote environmental restoration. Many of the former perpetrators of kaingin are now BROs who receive a monthly allowance of PhP3,000.00 that serve as their decent source of income. Further, these BROs are recipients of the 10-day Cash-for-Work (CFW) Program of the Department of Social Welfare and Development Field Office 1 (DSWD FO 1) wherein they receive PhP210.00 (75% of the prevailing daily wage rate in Region 1) per day as payment in the improvement of green wall and accomplishing environmental protection undertakings. The project has not only essentially rehabilitated previous environmental perpetrators to become productive individuals, but it also created thriving livelihoods and/or employment to 3,000 BROs on a quarterly rotational basis. Moreso, the Green Wall gradually eradicated kaingin operations, augmented income- generating activities, and provided stable food supply to the people of Ilocos Norte by planting various fruits and vegetables and producing their own seedlings and fertilizers.

Liberating the People

Now aware of their roles and responsibilities in the community, BROs uphold the value of volunteerism during disaster operations and blood donation, when necessary. They also underwent numerous seminars and information campaigns about climate change and environment, thus, developing a stronger sense of commitment to protecting the environment. “Sikami ti mangkitkita ti pagsayaatan ti lugar mi. Ti maysa pay nga pagsayaatan na ti trabaho mi ket makita mi diay pinagpintas ti mula mi. Tarakenen mi nga naimbag dagidiay inmula mi tapnu haan nga masayang diay pondo nga inted ti gobyerno. Dagitoy inmula mi ket makatulong to para diay maud-udi kadakami (We are the stewards of our community. One of the positive effects of our work is we are able to observe how our plants grow beautifully. We will thoroughly nurture our plants so that the government fund will not put be into waste and will help the future of the next generation,” happily shared Virgilio Batulan, an 80-year-old BRO at Brgy. Sagugui, Pagudpud Ilocos Norte. Virgilio also thanked the Provincial Government of Ilocos Norte for giving them the chance to have a source of income and at the same time be environmental warriors in their lands and mountains. Moreso, he disclosed that the CFW of DSWD is a big help to augment their day-to-day requirements and even underscored that the CFW should be a continuous project so that it will help other Indigenous Peoples in their barangay .

Continuous Development

As the Province’s forests have expanded and safety measures are prioritized to protect the area, both locals and tourists go to the mountains for hiking and glamorous camping (glamping) as they can now enjoy a flourishing forest environment and are assured of their security knowing that the BROs are around to guide the people and patrol the area to ensure full safety of the mountaineers.  In addition, recognizing the impact and success of the BROs in the implementation of Green Wall, the Provincial Government of Ilocos Norte hired additional BROs to plant, care for, and maintain a forest of mangroves along the shorelines of Laoag City, Badoc, and Currimao dubbed as the “Blue Wall of Ilocos Norte.” # By: Darwin T. Chan, Social Marketing Unit with reports from INERO.

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Cash-For-Work creates microfinance institution

Left to right: Victoria Areniego, a community facilitator and Cristy Castrence, the manager of Anda SHG Microfinance, show their SHG box that is used in their weekly collection.

Anda, Pangasinan – More than 1,500 beneficiaries of the cash-for-work (CFW) under the climate change adaptation and mitigation (CCAM) project created and became the first members of Anda Self-Help Group (SHG) Microfinance, an institution that provides investment and production credit for promoting the various developmental activities of the municipality to meet local needs.

In 2017, after the beneficiaries received their PhP1,900.00 CFW wage for undergoing a ten-day CCAM activities such as fish pen demolition, mangrove plantation and rehabilitation, coastal clean-up, community gardening, among others, they decided that their one-day wage amounting to PhP190.00 will be put into productive activities, of which the PhP90.00 was allocated to their annual Congress and the remaining amount was apportioned to the creation of the microfinance.

Members can loan a maximum of PhP10,000.00 and as low as PhP3,000.00, payable in six months, which they can use to jumpstart an income-generating activity, pay for their children’s school fees, and finance home needs. Compared to the 3% to 10% interest rates of the existing microfinance institutions (MFIs) in their locality, the Anda SHG Microfinance charges only a very minimal interest of 1.75%, a very acceptable borrowing rate that attracts individuals to shift from their previous MFIs. Patterned on the Self-Employment Assistance – Kaunlaran (SEA –K) of DSWD, individuals pay a weekly capital amortization and share a weekly PhP5.00 equity capital build-up. This strategy was designed to encourage the members to pool their savings regularly and maximize the pooled savings to be loaned by other members and, in the process, learning to be financially sound and disciplined and establishing good credit background.

“Ngayon, marami na sa aming mga members ang umunlad ang kanilang negosyo dahil maliit lang ang interest ng aming microfinance at tinuturuan naming sila kung paano ang mag-impok. Para siguraduhin din na napupunta sa tama ang kanilang inutang, regular ang pagmomonitor ng aming mga community facilitators mula sa iba’t-ibang barangay (Now, many of our members have improved their livelihoods because our microfinance charges only a minimal interest and we teach them how to save. To ensure that their loans are properly used, our community facilitators from different barangays regularly monitor them),” shared Cristy Castrence, Manager of Anda SHG Microfinance. The manager further disclosed that one of the primary objectives of their institution is to eliminate loan sharks leading to multiple loans of their poor constituents from formal microfinances. This type of predatory lending has high interest rates that make the poor borrower poorer.

Anda Municipal Social Welfare and Development Officer Jowey C. Celzo narrated that he proposed the creation the Anda SHG Microfinance to help the poor to have immediate access of financial help from the community and at the same time to teach them how to save which they can use during emergencies. Prior to the conception of the program, the MSWDO consulted the local officials and beneficiaries on the project scheme. “We need to involve the people to foster project ownership. If we hear their voices, they become engaged and empowered, and later on become the advocates of social change,” he said. Accordingly, Mr. Celzo revealed that the CFW did not only promote environmental sustainability but pave way to the improvement of various livelihoods in their local communities, thereby making the residents financially capable.

As of June 2019, Anda SHG Microfinance has more than PhP1.2Million revolving fund with more than 2,000 members and plans to register to Securities and Exchange Commission the soonest. # By: Darwin T. Chan, Social Marketing Unit.

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Anda fights climate change

Anda, Pangasinan is the only island municipality in the Province of Pangasinan comprising of 18 barangays with 8,855 households. Due to its location, the municipality is vulnerable to climate change impacts such as typhoon and drought that affect the inhabitants particularly the livelihoods of fisher folks in the coastal barangays. In 2018, to fight the emerging effects of the complex shifts of the climate systems, the Local Government of Anda specifically the Municipal Social Welfare and Development Office (MSWDO) made concrete strides by working with DSWD Field Office 1 (FO 1) through the implementation of various climate change adaptation and mitigation activities through the Cash-For-Work (CFW) project amounting PhP5,250,000.00 .

Dismantling Fish Pens

In May 2018, more than 1,000 families in Barangays Siapar, Awag, Carot, Dolaoan, San Jose, Mal-ong, and Poblacion were affected by fish kill along Caquipotan Channel where fish pens and fish cages have proliferated the area. On 31 May 2018, the Local Government declared a temporary suspension of fish stocking within the aquaculture zone of the municipality, thus leaving the fisher folks to lose their regular sources of income. Recognizing the adverse effects of the moratorium, LGU Anda, with people’s consultation, conducted a 10-day CFW to provide temporary employment to families whose daily needs mainly depend on their wages as direct workers from fish pens and cages by dismantling illegal fish pens.  “We need to remove the fish pens because the excess fish meals/pellets go to the bottom of the ocean, thereby obstructing free water flow and polluting the water systems leading to fish kill,” said Dolaoan Brgy. Captain Baltazar Pajarillo. The Brgy. Captain further disclosed that the DSWD’s CFW was a big help in funding their project because the local government has no fund in providing wages to the people who dismantled the fish pens. In addition, materials from the removed pens were distributed to the residents who need bamboos to restructure their huts while some were maximized as firewood. After the dismantling, small fishermen have regained access to their traditional fishing grounds.

Materials from the dismantled fish pens were piled for distribution to individuals needing bamboos.

Beautifying Schools

All 21 elementary schools in the municipality are recipients of DSWD’s CFW to improve schools’ gardens and surroundings. The undertaking did not only provide a safe and attractive learning environment for pupils, but it also allowed the parents to share their creative gardening skills while earning. “Kami ay nakatutulong sa paaralan ng aming anak at naipakikita rin namin sa komunidad na masaya ang pagtutulungan (We are able to help our children’s school and show to the community that cooperation is fun),” shared Junelie Carolino, Parent-Teacher Association President at Namagbagan Elementary School. Junelie, a Pantawid Pamilya beneficiary, who sends her two children to the said school encouraged all parents to start instilling the value of environmental protection at home .

School officials, local government officials, and pupils pose in the school garden of Namagbagan Elementary School.

“Maganda ang Cash-For-Work kasi hindi lang nilalabanan ang climate change pero naibabahagi rin ng mga magulang ang kanilang kaalaman sa organic gardening. Ang mga magulang din ay namumulot ng mga basurang pwede pang i-recycle at maganda itong halimbawa sa mga bata at komunidad. Tayo ay magtulungan para mahilom ang ating mundo (Cash-For-Work is good because it does not only fight climate change but it also allows the parents to share their knowledge in organic gardening. Also, the parents collect wastes that can be recycled and this is a good example to the children and community. We need to work together to heal our world),” School Principal Elvira Aqui narrated. Namagbagan Elementary School was the 2017 and 2018 municipal winner in the Gulayan Sa Paaralan (Vegetable Garden in School) with attractive-landscape grounds using cost-effective materials with proper waste management.

Rehabilitating the Coast

Mangroves are vitally important in stabilizing the coastline and serve as valuable nurseries for various types of sea creatures necessary for human consumption. However, with the laxities of communities, these mangroves are gradually depleted. To address such issues that would contribute dramatic consequences for humans and nature, Anda has seen the urgent need to stop the current loss of mangrove and therefore implemented the mangrove planting and rehabilitation through the CFW project to ensure conservation. Today, mangrove forests in the municipality are recovering and even extending to provide wider sources of food security and livelihoods to locals and boost local tourism. Imbo Barangay Captain Francegil Matteo pledged to counterbalance the mangrove decrease and will always safeguard this resilient and biodiverse ecosystem by sustaining cleanliness and supporting all government programs and policies relative to fighting climate change.

Anda MSWDO Jowey Celzo shows the mangroves that were planted during their CFW implementation in Brgy. Carot.

Anda’s environmental movement is an eye-opener to accelerate our ways and initiatives to eradicate the impacts of climate change. We need to strengthen our personal and collective efforts to contribute to the existing global initiatives to fight climate change. No one wins once the Earth retaliates. Let us rebuild Mother Earth. Let us harmonize what Anda has done. Let us support environmental agreements and commitments. Let us start within ourselves. Let us fight climate change. # By: Darwin T. Chan, Social Marketing Unit with reports from MSWDO Anda.

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