The World Bank (WB) has commended the performance of the Puerto Princesa seaweeds subproject during the 11th World Bank Implementation Mission conducted by the Department of Agriculture-Philippine Rural Development Project (DA-PRDP).
Held from November 17 to December 3, the mission said despite the pandemic brought by COVID-19, the city’s seaweed project coped with the situation.
In a statement released by the DA in the region, the MIMAROPA I-REAP presented the Seaweeds Production Marketing, which is one of the ongoing subprojects of the city, on November 20 via an online platform Cisco Webex.
The department added that the consultation during the implementation mission mainly focused on the steps that the cooperative exercised to cope with the current situation. In addition to the coronavirus pandemic, the enterprise was also affected by the typhoon Quinta.
Agriculture Policy, Planning, and Business Specialist Agnès Deshormes of World Bank said that the determination of the members of the project to operate and earn amidst the pandemic crisis is commendable.
“You had a number of adversities, the COVID-19 [pandemic], the typhoons, that throughout these difficult events you have really kept up your dynamism and your determination to operate your cooperative and earn revenue, so congratulations. That is really commendable,” she said.
The seaweeds subproject which is managed by the proponent group Pandan Marine Products Marketing Cooperative (PMPMC) is a small enterprise and categorized as an upgrading and expansion type in Masong Lagoon, Brgy. Manalo, Puerto Princesa City, within the Honda Bay area.
The subproject is worth P16.1 million with its focus commodity being Raw Dried Seaweeds or RDS which investment capital requirement includes the provision of seaweed nurseries, floating dryers, fiberglass boats, transport equipment, and production supplies.
The PMPMC aimed to increase the income of their seaweed growers by improving the quality of the RDS that they will market, generate employment for both members and residents, and increase the group’s farm productivity through the DA-PRDP.
The PMPMC has a 50 hectare-seaweed planting and postharvest site for its existing operations which it still plans to expand through PRDP.
“The assistance from PRDP will be of use in the planting of our seaweeds and in multiplying and helping our seaweeds grow. The PRDP is a great help to us because, without it, we might still be planting seaweeds but we might not be able to increase [our production] because we don’t have enough supplies. We will continue to plant seaweeds so that our members will have more income,” PMPMC Chairperson Mario Mulato said.
PMPMC, however, acknowledged that even if they have continued to operate, the effect of the pandemic was also felt on their part. The cooperative secretary Juvelyn Samante said that their activities such as planting became limited due to restrictions.
“Our planting activities became limited because we were not allowed to leave our homes. The price of our product also dropped due to the absence of transportation caused by the pandemic. [But] as the number of sick people decreased, we were allowed to leave our homes. Then, we started planting seaweeds again,” Samante said.
The members of the City Project Management and Implementing Unit (CPMIU) and the PMPMC joined the videoconference with the World Bank and the project management led by National Project Director Undersecretary Ariel T. Cayanan and National Deputy Project Director Shandy M. Hubilla.
City agriculturist Melissa Macasaet expressed her confidence with the quality of dried seaweeds produced by the cooperative to its buyers and the city continuously assisted their concerns during the operation.
“They built a temporary floating dryer to ensure that they are able to dry their seaweeds. There is no issue with quality because the group is well known in the buyers as they produce good quality so they don’t experience price decrease because of certain quality standards. And if they have any concerns, we immediately address their problems and issues,” Macasaet said.
Meanwhile, PMPMC is now coordinating with the Seaweed Industry Association of the Philippines to get information on where the market is going with respect to prices and demands in the future, DA added.
The cooperative also plans to increase its capacity and skills to go into the processing of seaweeds for value-adding.