The Badjao / Bajau tribe is an indigenous population whose culture and livelihood are tied to the sea. Also widely known as the “Sea Gypsies” of the Sulu and Celebes Seas, the Badjao are scattered along the coastal areas of Tawi Tawi, Sulu, Basilan, and some coastal areas of Zamboanga City.

Some are found living on houseboats where they make their livelihood solely on the sea as expert fishermen, deep sea divers, and navigators while some are given the opportunity to live more permanently in selected communities in Zamboanga City such as Barangay Sinunuc where most of them live in houses on stilts. Most households in said community live below the poverty threshold and struggle to find a living in the City as their skills are more inclined to fishing.

Early this year, the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) organized members of the Sinunuc Bajau tribe into an association named Bajau Community Association (BCA)  to gain access to various government aid such as the Department of Labor and Employment’s Integrated Livelihood Program (DILP).

In an interview with DOLE 9 Regional Director Atty. Roy L. Buenafe, he shared that the DILP or the Kabuhayan Program of DOLE is a flagship program of the agency that aims to help marginalized groups such as self-employed workers who are unable to earn sufficient income, unpaid family workers, low-waged and seasonal workers, workers displaced or to be displaced, marginalized and landless farmers, marginalized fisher-folks, women and youth, persons with disability, senior citizens, indigenous peoples, victims of armed conflicts, rebel returnees, and parents of child laborers.

Under DILP, associations with 15 to 25 members may receive a grant of up to P250,000 while P500,000 is granted to associations with 26 to 50 members. Meanwhile, associations with 51 members above may get up to one million pesos grant.

The BCA and NCIP in close coordination with DOLE 9’s Zamboanga City Field Office submitted a proposal for a fishing caravan project worth PHP 624,997.80.  The amount will be used to purchase a mother boat, engine and accessories as well as fishing gear or drift net.

The group settled for a fishing caravan project to discourage sea pirates or lawless elements from harassing the fishermen since there will be more bancas and people aboard during fishing operations. In a 2-5 days fishing operation, the group projects a produce of 10-20 kilos of various fishes such as Snappers, groupers, caranz, mackerel and tuna. The said produce will be sold directly to the market or local fish traders in the community.

And so, after thorough evaluation of BCA’s proposal, on September 3, 2020, DOLE 9 turned over a check in the amount of Php 499,997.80 to Association President Abdul Mari Sali Nawali at the DOLE 9 Premises, Sta. Catalina, Zamboanga City.

To ensure that the livelihood project is sustained for the long term, DOLE 9 shall also provide capacity building on Basic Book Keeping to members.

“We are very excited to begin with our livelihood project and we owe this to DOLE 9 and NCIP for making it possible for us. This will help us to provide food on the table for our families and even send our kids to school,” Mr. Nawali said. / END