Women of Macabebe weave water lilies into mats

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    MACABEBE, Pampanga – Ever since the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in 1991, flooding has worsened in this bucolic town located downstream of the Pampanga River.

    Compounding this problem is the pollution from upstream communities which not only aggravated the flooding but have invaded the most profitable livelihood of the town – the prawn and crab culture as well as other fisheries and aquaculture activities.

    “Ing pollution kekami, manibatan keng babo. Alakaming akarapat (The pollution here is coming from upstream. We cannot do anything),” complained Mayor Annette Flores- Balgan as she talked to reporters after the inauguration of the new wing of the Domingo Flores District Hospital in Barangay Batasan here last Monday.

    “Sane nake keng albug, agyu mi na pero ing pollution makasira (We are used to the floods, we can manage but pollution really destroys us),” the mayor said. Balgan said losses in the aquaculture industry in the town amount to hundred million pesos because of the pollution.

    She said the tilapia aquaculture industry is very much affected by the pollution.The mayor explained that even if they start cleaning and clearing the garbage and other pollution, it comes back in only a month’s time. She recalled that she even had an altercation with officials of the City of San Fernando because of the pollution coming from the city by way of the streams passing through Federosa cockpit arena in Sto. Tomas town.

    But even as fl oodwaters bring miseries to residents of this town, it also produces a plant which has now become a source of their livelihood. Water lily, an aquatic plant, is now being collected and dried and then weaved into mats.

    Municipal Councilor Bembong Balgan said an initial 33 women are now benefitting from the water lily livelihood project. The councilor said the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) buys the mats from the women for P150 each.

    “It takes two days to weave the mats so that means they earn P75 per day which is hardly enough but it is a start and still better than nothing,” the councilor said. She added that now the women have formed themselves into a group called “Biyaya ning Balen Association” which is accredited by the Department of Labor and Employment and soon with the Bureau of Internal Revenue.

    Meanwhile, Mayor Balgan said the flooding is now being addressed by a private contractor without cost to the government. “It’s a seven year program,” she said. The river will be dredged and the materials will be transported by barge to another area which can be used as filling materials, she added.

    Right now, the mayor explained, the river is being dredged but the soil is just deposited on the banks so that when the rains come it goes back into the river.

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