By engaging ordinary housewives as twiners, the PRDP-funded Albay Coco Geonets Manufacturing Enterprise empowers rural women including Pia Mita Bergantin (center) in Brgy. Bonbon Libon, Albay. (Photo by Eduardo Collantes Jr.)

PRDP’s enterprise now empowers rural women, senior citizens in Libon, Albay

Date Published: May 3, 2018

LIBON, ALBAY – When 53-year-old Pia Mita Bergantin’s husband died in May 2017, she knew that her life has changed—that the burden of raising their six children is now on her shoulders. From being an ordinary housewife, she took on the roles of being both father and mother to her family. She decided to work as an on-call laborer in a one-hectare rice field in Libon to earn at least P300 per day; however, it wasn’t enough to sustain her family’s daily needs.

“Minsan-minsan lang natatangranan. Sa usad na semana, minsan tolo, minsan darwa. Pierde pa ta minsan kung hindi tutong, minsan sige uran, baha… (I only earn an income twice or thrice a week. Sometimes, I don’t earn anything at all because of either extreme heat or heavy rains and flood which damage our crops),” Bergantin lamented.

A member of the Tunay Tapat Lahing Pilipino Cooperative (TTLPC) since 2007, Bergantin didn’t hesitate to join the dry run operations of the Philippine Rural Development Project (PRDP)-funded Albay Coco Geonets Manufacturing Enterprise which started in May 2014. After extensive hands-on training at the Juboken Enterprises Inc. coir processing plant in Lower Gapo Camalig, Albay, TTLPC members engaged in drying, decorticating, twining, and weaving processes in a temporary warehouse made of bamboo.

However, the temporary warehouse was damaged by Typhoon Nina that hit Bicol on December 25, 2016. The cooperative also faced other challenges especially when their borrowed machines became faulty or unavailable. TTLPC Chairperson Josias Pedrocello admitted that explaining to his members that the subproject is real and worth the wait was one of his biggest challenges.

On January 15, Bergantin was among of the TTLPC members who witnessed the official launch of the Albay Coco Geonets Manufacturing Enterprise in Sitio La Medalla Brgy. Bonbon, Libon, Albay. With the completion of their 150 square meter warehouse worth P1.88 million, TTLPC members are now convinced that change has come to their community. The cooperative also received one decorticating machine, 15 weaving machines, 246 twining machines and one sieving machine from PRDP. The Project provided one laptop, one desktop computer set, one heavy-duty weighing scale and single phase electrical connection with transformer. In addition to their forward truck with railings, PRDP will also buy a motorcycle which they can use in hauling coconut husks from remote barangays.

Mas lalong tumibay ang pagpupursige nila kasi sabi nga nila, noon nga na wala pa tayong nakikita, nakakapagtiyaga tayo lalo na ngayon na meron na. Yung dedication nila andito na kaya yung mga paghihirap, pagitityaga at pagtitiis namin, nagbunga na (This progress made them persevere harder because according to them, they were able to endure when they haven’t seen anything yet, more so now that PRDP’s support is already visible. They are very dedicated because now they see the results of their hard work and perseverance)” Jerome Pedrocillo, Operations Manager of Albay Coco Geonets Manufacturing Enterprise, said.

Currently, the enterprise employs eight decorticators, four laborers, 16 twiners, and four weavers. Four individuals can produce 150 twines a day and nine coco geonets per week sold at P1,600 each. The twiners and weavers receive P200 per day.

The enterprise also provides indirect income to coconut farmers who sell their coconut husks for P200 per truckload. Using their new truck, TTLPC has expanded its sources to Pio Duran and in Iriga City. According to Pedrocillo, this greatly reduced their hauling cost for they used to spend P700 day for truck rental.

Aside from housing the machines and equipment, the newly-constructed warehouse makes work at the Albay Coco Geonets Manufacturing Enterprise comfortable for its laborers.

“Grabe kaogmahan namon na igwa na kami warehouse. Indi na kami nauranan, indi na kami nainitan. Kadto ang building mi bamboo sana, nung nagbagyo, nasira pa (We are overjoyed now that we have this warehouse. It serves as our sun and rain protection. Before, our building was only made of bamboo and the typhoon blew it away),” Bergantin said.

The 68-year old Diosdado Tolop and his wife, 66 year-old Anisia also expressed appreciation for their newfound job wherein they will no longer work under the scorching heat. The couple used to engage in backyard farming as well as vending legumes, tomatoes and chili in the market.

The P5.79 million-worth Albay Coco Geonets Manufacturing Enterprise is the pilot enterprise development (I-REAP) subproject in Bicol. It aims to provide sources of employment and livelihood opportunities through the production of coco coir products and processing them into geonets and other marketable products. Coco geonets are used as raw materials for bio-engineering/erosion control while coco peat serves as a soil conditioner. The I-REAP subproject will be implemented as a community-based enterprise wherein farmers’ associations, cooperatives, and women and youth organizations will be involved. ### (Annielyn L. Baleza, DA-PRDP Bicol RPCO InfoACE Unit)

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