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Filipino Fishermen Turn to Fiberglass for New Boats


Last year, a typhoon seriously damaged Leyte Island in the Philippines. More than 7,300 people died or are missing. Four million Filipinos lost their homes, and many of them lost their incomes.

Many fishermen were among them. They lost their wooden boats. Without them, they had no way to make money.

The fishermen used boats called “bancas.” These boats were made from wood taken from the island’s forests. But the forests were damaged by the powerful storm, making it difficult to quickly rebuild the boats.

So a large, non-governmental environmental protection group is helping the fishermen rebuild their boats using a material made of glass and plastic. The material is called fiberglass. The group says fiberglass lasts longer than the wood and plywood materials the fishermen have traditionally used to build their boats.

Patrick Vincent Co manages the bancas rebuilding project for the WWF. He and his employees are teaching fishermen how to build boats with fiberglass.

“We feel that this is simply the next step forward, both out of necessity and out of practicality to use fiberglass rather than wood and plywood, and also something that is essentially ecologically sound.”

Ramon Binamira is a boat-building expert. He says many of the fishermen were worried about using fiberglass to build boats. He says they asked many questions.

“Is it strong enough? Will it be able to take the day-to-day abuse that the traditional boats have proven to be capable of taking?”

The fishermen tested the fiberglass bancas with a heavy tool called a “sledgehammer.” The fisherman used it to hit the sides of the fiberglass boats to see if the new boats were as strong as their wooden boats.

Norberto dela Torre is a 78-year old fisherman. He says he was surprised by the strength of the fiberglass bancas.

Mr. dela Torre says the fiberglass boats are durable. He says they are stronger in water than wooden boats. And he notes wooden boats get dirty easily.

The new fiberglass bancas are now being used only for small-scale fishing. But the World Wildlife Fund hopes the new boat-building skills that fishermen are learning will help them design and create larger fiberglass boats. The WWF says the technology will help them better-prepare for climate change and reduce the need for wood from forests damaged by Typhoon Haiyan.

I’m Jonathan Evans.

VOA Washington correspondent George Putic reported this story. Jonathan Evans wrote it for Learning English. Christopher Cruise edited it.

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Words in This Story

durableadj. staying strong and in good condition over a long period of time

fiberglassn. a light, strong material that is made from thin threads of glass; it is used to make different products

plywood n. a strong board that is made by joining thin sheets of wood with glue

typhoon n. an extremely large, powerful and destructive storm that happens especially in the area of the Philippines

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