Farley: Fisherfolk to get vouchers for groceries on Friday

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

An oil-stained boat on the shore of Petit Trou beach, Lambeau, Tobago. – Jaydn Sebro

FISHERFOLK, vendors and shop owners whose livelihoods have been affected by the oil spill off Tobago’s southwestern coast will get vouchers at the Shaw Park Food Hub on March 1 to assist with groceries for their respective households.

Making the announcement on February 28 at the post-executive council media briefing, THA Chief Secretary Farley Augustine said the effort is a prelude to other forms of relief.

“On Friday (March 1), we will begin those relief efforts and those relief efforts will begin with vouchers allowing for the affected individuals to be able to go to the supermarket and make groceries for themselves. That relief effort is a precursor to the other relief efforts that will come,” he told reporters at the Shaw Park Cultural Complex.

He added, “At this point, we are still calculating and analysing what the loss and damage is. So we have asked the fisherfolk and those affected to quantify the damages, quantify what they lost and we have able staff from the Division of Food Security who is helping to do that assessment so that we know that we get honest reports and that it lines up with what is real and not what is made up so to speak.

“We are aware that these crises tend to bring opportunities for some individuals so we are doing the due diligence. But we begin those relief efforts on Friday morning.”

He said the beneficiaries must walk with a valid form of photo identification.

Augustine said the decision was taken on February 26 after a meeting with the affected people.

He said Deputy Chief Secretary Dr Faith BYisrael, Secretary of Food Security, Natural Resources, the Environment and Sustainable Development Nathisha Charles-Pantin and representative for the area Wane Clarke attended the meeting.

“We met with the fisherfolk from Lambeau and Scarborough area and we have begun the conversation about relief efforts to those that are affected. Notice I am using the term relief and not compensation. Compensation will suggest that the THA did something wrong and we are now compensating for that.

“That is not what we are doing here. We are providing some element of relief for those that are affected and working out what that would be and ensuring that we give support to the industries that are so affected.”

Augustine said several tourism sector service providers have also been affected by the oil spill.

“Just today (February 28), we were looking at the impact on restaurants in that area. We met with fish vendors, small parlours and tock shops that also had to be closed because of the effect on the beach in Lambeau.”

But he said fisherfolk, vendors and shop owners will receive vouchers on February 28. Restaurant owners will receive theirs next week.

Augustine estimates that about 100 people will receive vouchers in the initial disbursement.

“The truth is that these individuals have had their industry impacted for over two weeks. It is inching towards a month and certainly, they have needs that must be met. They have families that they must take care of and so we want to begin to provide some support even as we try to calculate what is the real cost to their enterprise.”