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By: Vanessa Almeda | Published Saturday, August 1, 2020
Boatmen in Oslob and Moalboal receive assistance from DTI. (Tonee Despojo)

Hours after the reboot of Cebu’s tourism industry on Friday, July 31, its effect was immediately felt by stakeholders as the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Central Visayas announced it will release P300,000 financial assistance to 280 boatmen in Barangay Tan-awan, Oslob town where the famous whaleshark watching was relaunched.

By Saturday, August 1, Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia and DTI Assistant Secretary Asteria Caberte turned over P10,000 worth of certificates to 18 boatmen and operators of Moalboal who are the first batch of beneficiaries of the DTI’s Pangkabuhayan sa Pagbangon at Ginhawa under Covid-19 (PPGC) program.

The PPGC program is under the Negosyo Serbisyo sa Barangay (NSB) program launched in 2019, which was tweaked to be able to assist micro, small and medium enterprise (MSME) affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, Caberte said.

“So karon dunay need to tweak aron mahaom sa panginahanglanon sa tawo,” she said. 

Caberte stated the assistance is their way of bridging the gap in the Capitol’s initiative to bring back the lost livelihood of the boatmen who are one of the sectors hugely affected when Cebu’s multi-billion tourism industry went on a deep dive because of imposed strict community quarantine since March. 

Earlier, DTI met with the Oslob and Moalboal boatmen prior to the launch in order to identify their needs. 

“So when we talked about during the dialogue (in Oslob) gi-discuss namo unsa man gyud ang common need. Kana diay sila dunay fixed cost which is the feeding of whalesharks. So to sustain the presence of the whaleshark we will help them and support it,” Caberte said.

DTI also committed to assist the organization in strengthening themselves in managing the fund. 

“We are coming up with a working capital for them to sustain their operations because there is a gap since only 50 percent ang ilang dawaton nga mga bisita pa. We have to abide with that protocol,” Caberte said.

As per Executive Order 20-A on the protocols and regulations for the reopening of Cebu’s tourism, only 50 percent of the total visitor capacity are allowed for each tourism activity. 

In Oslob, 1,000 guests are allowed daily from the pre-Covid 19 period of 2,000 visitors a day.

“Kay aron ang among ihatag ma-sustain nila, og duna silay kita ilang bahinan gamay ang ilang pondo aron mao toy ilang working capital for the group,” Caberte said.

DTI will also assist the Oslob boatmen in looking for the supplier of the feeds.

“Amo pud i-assist ang provider sa feeds and will look sa supply chain kay basin ma-lower sad ang cost. We will also be helping the supplier (in giving them the market),” Caberte said.

In Moalboal, boatmen are faced with the cost of spending for the upgrading and disinfection of their vessel.

“Ang problem is di pwede nga mo-operate kun dili ma-disinfect and that is cost and remember they’ve been belly up for four months,” she said.

In order to address this, DTI will be providing for the UV sterilization lamps and other materials needed for the repair of their boats.

Caberte said they are sourcing the funds appropriated by Senator Lawrence “Bong” Go during pre-Covid times.

She said in order to create more economic activities, they also tapped the supply chain that will provide for the other needs of the boatmen like paints, and epoxy, among other materials that were identified during their dialogue which is included in the P10,000 assistance.

DTI will also help Moalboal boatmen in rebranding their pumpboats by having a uniform of colors that will easily be identifiable and will give higher memory retention for guests.

“So we also thought of branding their boats and look at tweaking the colors for them,” the DTI official said. (Vanessa Almeda)