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By Manny Piñol
One hundred twenty Badjao fishermen, the brown haired sea gypsies whose women and children are often seen begging in the city streets, have "joined" government as members of the first batch of the "Bantay Laut," an auxiliary group tasked to support the campaign against illegal fishing in the country's coastal waters.
The Badjao families are among the first 600 fishermen in the Davao Gulf who were drafted as guardians of the seas by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources of the Dept. of Agriculture.
The drafting of the new "Bantay Laut" members was held during the turn-over of 300 fiberglass fishing boats to 600 fishermen in Daliao Fish Port in Toril, Davao City last Aug. 17.
As members of the "Bantay Laut," the Badjaos and the other fishermen are tasked to ensure that there is no illegal fishing in the seas fronting Davao City and in the waters around Samal Island.
They were also instructed to keep close watch and gather garbage floating in the waters, especially plastics.
The first batch of "Bantay Laut" will receive an allowance of P100 per day for a period of three months after which they will be involved in livelihood activities like the propagation of mangrove planting materials.
The Badjao fishermen, however, who were obviously very happy for their new role in the administration of President Rody Duterte, were also asked to allow their children to go to school.
It was a request that they readily agreed to.
Most Badjaos do not even have birth certificates and their children are trained early on to live off the bounty of the seas, including diving deep for coins thrown by passengers of boats and ferries in the country's ports.
With their new role as members of the Auxiliary Group "Bantay Laut," the Badjaos now will certainly feel that they belong.
During the turn-over ceremonies of the fiberglass fishing boats, I saw many of them cry as they receive the first meaningful help from government, courtesy of President Duterte.
#Changeishere! #PresRodyCares! #DuterteDelivers! #BantayLaut!#BiyahengBukidRocks!