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Sewing Community Pivots Livelihood to Bolster Pandemic Response

Anjie lou delos Reyes
The Philippine government last April mandated all residents of Luzon to don face masks or facial protective gear when leaving their houses to help #FlattenTheCurve as the country grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sewing Community Pivots Livelihood to Bolster Pandemic Response
Sewing Community Pivots Livelihood to Bolster Pandemic Response

Responding to this mandate while helping Filipinos in its host communities, Malampaya Foundation Inc. (MFI), the Malampaya Joint Venture’s social arm, tapped its trained sewing community to make high-quality cloth face masks and help prevent the spreading of the virus.

MFI has several livelihood programs in its program areas in Palawan, Mindoro, and Batangas that help and socially empower communities with pieces of training in different trade skillsets like sewing, food processing, scaffolding, and welding, among other skills, to supplement their income from fishing.

Among the areas benefiting from the livelihood programs are the municipalities of San Teodoro and Bulalacao in Oriental Mindoro, where trained tailors have added face masks among their products in view of the increasing demand and legislation requiring their donning in public spaces.

Related: Project Shelter: Shell Philippines' Response to COVID-19

Corazon Ines, 64 years old and resident of Brgy. Ilag, San Teodoro and a member of the community organization Kabisig ng Mangingisda sa Ilag, was among those trained in sewing. “Malaki ang ginampanan ko at ang ilan sa mga miyembro. Madami kami nabenta at naipamigay sa mga kasapi ng samahan. Kumita ang samahan at may ilang kasapi ang natulungan. Ang kinita ng samahan ay ibinibili ulit ng tela kung saan gumagawa ulit ng face mask, bedsheet, at punda ng unan.”

Due to the supply shortage of PPEs, the local government of the municipality of Bulalacao likewise sought the help of the Barangay Maasin Marine Protected Area Association and Sewer’s Group to produce cloth face masks for their fellow Mindoreños, especially those in the far-flung areas. 

The local government ordered 2,500 pieces of cloth masks from the association at P20 each. Twenty percent of the income will go to the association to help fund the protection of their community’s marine protected area while the rest will be divided as profit among the actual workers/sewers.

“We are happy to have been an instrument to empower coastal community groups to make a living for themselves and play a role in society.  These groups, who have not produced an item like face masks, have become innovators and are resilient enough to adapt to changing times,” stated MFI Executive Director Karen Agabin.

MFI is the social arm of the Malampaya Joint Venture partners formed in 2005 to work with communities and implement social development and environmental conservation programs in the operating areas of the Malampaya Deepwater Gas-to-Power project. Shell Philippines Exploration BV operates the Malampaya Deep Water Gas-to-Power project on behalf of the SC38 consortium with Chevron Malampaya and Philippine National Oil Company-Exploration Corporation.

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