As part of its continuing mission to help the impoverished “Happy Land” community in Tondo, and to help Manila’s anti-drug campaign, Rock Energy International Corp. has pioneered a sustainable livelihood program that has been providing extra income to poor residents.
REIC Managing Director Carl Fontanila said their “Pera sa Basahan” rag-sewing program began only on Dec. 9, but has succeeded so much that the firm is now recruiting and training more women-beneficiaries.
“In our own little way, we want to help Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada and President Rodrigo Duterte in their fight to eliminate drugs in the country. This is our commitment,” Fontanilla said.
Estrada, the REIC chief said, has also been extending livelihood assistance to indigents to keep them off drugs.
Himself a Manileño, Fontanilla said he was inspired by Estrada’s multi-pronged anti-drug campaign and the mayor’s anti-drug education program for schoolchildren, the Drug Abuse Resistance Education.
Rock Energy and other companies located inside the Vitas Industrial Estate buy a considerable amount of “basahan” or rags for their personnel who use it in their operations and maintenance activities.
The company saw this as an opportunity to start a livelihood for the residents of Happy Land who know how to sew, Fontanilla said.
“We are trying to really make people in Happy Land happy,” he added, citing the seemingly unending poverty, unemployment, malnutrition, crimes, and even illegal drugs that have plagued Barangay 105 — the so-called “Happy Land” community of 40,000 indigent residents — for decades.
REIC, a trading and logistics firm based in Port Area, is mainly involved in coal and mineral distribution, supplying vital mineral resources to manufacturers in the country.
At present, it operates a 1.5-hectare coal stockyard located at the Vitas Industrial Estate in Vitas, adjacent to Barangay 105.
Fontanilla said REIC provided the initial capital, two high-powered sewing machines, and a clean and secured workplace; four women residents who live near the coal facility are now running the project, producing and selling rags to port workers.
“All income from this project are shared by the workers,” he said, adding that each woman earns a minimum of P400 day.
With the present demand for rags within the Industrial Estate alone, Rock Energy expects this livelihood project to grow, Fontanilla pointed out.
“That is why the Company is already preparing its second phase of community social program which is training more residents to learn how to sew. As the skill of the sewers develop, the livelihood opportunity will expand to dressmaking for corporate attires and uniforms providing a continued source of livelihood for participating residents of Barangay Happy Land,” the REIC official added.
REIC’s rags-making backyard industry, Fontanilla said, is part of the company’s social development programs that are also aimed at complementing the government’s anti-criminality and illegal drugs campaign.
“We realized the best way to keep them away from drugs is to keep them busy, by providing them with legitimate sources of income, instead of peddling drugs,” Fontanilla, recounting that REIC even lost one of its employees to drugs recently.