The Estancia fishport in Iloilo is once again a busy hub for fish traders, dealers, fishermen, brokers, market vendors and fish porters. Rows of fresh fish, crustaceans, squids, and shells serve as the center of gravity in this place. Fishermen make deals with brokers and casual buyers alike.
This is the scene in the rehabilitated fishport two years after Typhoon Yolanda struck Estancia, a second class municipality in the northern part of the Iloilo province. The town was the center of commercial fishing in the country and had the most developed fishport and pier in northern Visayas before Typhoon Yolanda hit. It shares the title “Alaska of the Philippines” with Carles, a neighboring municipality known for its bountiful marine resources such as mackerel, barracuda, sardines, shad, pompano, grouper, squid, cuttlefish, shrimp, prawns, shells, seaweeds, milkfish, among others.
“We’re in business again,” said Mang Romeo, a resident of the area, and a local fish buyer and seller.
Along the seawall is a crowd of small and medium sized fishing boats parked alongside each other; most of these were given by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) to fishermen. According to the port manager Reynaldo Reyes Jr., not one fishing boat was left in Estancia after the typhoon.
This part of the province suffered a lot of damages and deaths. Following the devastation of Typhoon Yolanda, the local government was kept busy bringing unidentified bodies into the municipality’s mass grave as well as attending to the survivors’ humanitarian needs.
“All of the houses in our zone in the barangay were washed out because we lived in a coastal area. The livelihood of the people there were drying fish and squids, and fishing. For more than six months after the typhoon hit, the fishermen were not able to sail. A lot of help came from the local government unit, national government, and others. We received donations of clothes, things that we could use at home, and there was also cash for work for clean-up drives,” said municipal councilor Gautiar Bermudez.
Bermudez added that the survivors in the coastal barangays were able to fix their houses from their own resources and the materials provided by the government like the GI sheets, nails, and others. Those within the no-build zone or 40 meters from the shore, on the other hand, will be resettled by the government.
The typhoon damaged part of the port on the left side facing the sea, used by passenger boats from Cebu, Masbate, Carles, and the islands of Bantayan and Sicogon. The port did not operate for about a year.
A new government-built concrete passenger terminal painted red and white now stands at the pier; the fishport, passenger terminal, and port office have also been rebuilt and painted the same colors. The Estancia fishport has been rehabilitated by the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) with funding from the government of Japan.
Estancia is definitely back in business as the “Alaska of the Philippines”, making it possible for men of the sea like Romeo and Gautiar to strive for their families with their catch of the day.