Amid the growing hunger and lack of income among them, the municipal fisherfolk, like Roberto Ballon, are not backing down from their efforts to defend their livelihood and the ultimate source of food for their family and the coastal communities around them.
Fisherfolk leader Roberto “Ka Dodoy” Ballon was given the recognition of Ocean Hero for 2021 by the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and Oceana during the celebration of the Maritime and Archipelagic Nation Awareness Month (MANA Mo) on September23. Oceana hands over the plaque to Ballon on Wednesday during his visit to Manila.
“Nais kong magpasalamat sa DILG at Oceanapara sa pagkilalang ito. Sana sa pamamagitan ng mga parangal na kumikilala sa amin at sa karapatan namin ay mas mapalakas pa natin ang boses ng mga mangingisda. Panahon na upang pakinggan naman kami ng pamahalaan sa usapin ng pangangalaga sa ating karagatan,” said Ballon.
(I want to thank the DILG and Oceana for this recognition. I hope that the awards we have received will help in amplifying the voice of fisherfolk. It is high time that the government listened to the fisherfolk in matters related to ocean conservation.)
First given in 2016 to advocates who moved to protect the Tañon Strait Protected Seascape, the Ocean Heroes Award is given to individuals who have consistently worked for ocean conservation and pushed policies for the science-based, participatory, and sustainable management of the country’s fisheries. In Tañon Strait, 8 fisherfolk were awarded as Ocean Heroes in 2016 and 2017.
“Oceana is fortunate to have found a strong partner in Ka Dodoy who is a staunch advocate for the protection of municipal waters in Zamboanga Sibugay and all over the country. It is always heartwarming to see the hard work of our municipal fisherfolk who have effectively adapted to the new normal of pushing for advocacies during this pandemic,” said Oceana Vice President, Atty. Gloria Estenzo Ramos.
Ballon is one of the many municipal fisherfolk who supported and participated in the pilot sessions of the fisherfolk classroom, a virtual lecture that is part of Oceana’s campaign to establish the Fisheries Management Areas (FMA) system. He has been vocal in the opposition to the intrusion of illegal commercial fishing vessels on municipal waters.
“Isa sa mga malalaking problemang kinakaharap ng mga mangingisda ang tahasang pagpasok ng mga naglalakihang ilegal na komersyal na fishing vessels sa mga pangisdaan. Kung kahit ang municipal waters ay pangingisdaan na nila, ano na lang ang matitira sa aming mga maliliit na mangingisda?” asked Ballon.
(One of the biggest challenges faced by municipal fisherfolk is the brazen intrusion of large illegal commercial fishing vessels. If they will encroach on municipal waters and get the fish that we’re supposed to catch, what will be left for us, small-scale fisherfolk?)
Like Ballon, many municipal fisherfolk have cited in the past the violations committed by commercial fishing vessels who shamelessly operate in municipal waters as one of the most challenging issues they are facing today.
Despite being reserved for the preferential use and access of municipal fisherfolk under the Constitution and the amended Fisheries Code, illegal commercial fishing in municipal waters continues to be a source of misery of Ballon and his fellow artisanal fisherfolk in the country.
“In any advocacy, it is important to have the participation and support of the sector you are helping. Oceana hopes that Ka Dodoy will continue to be one of our vocal fisherfolk advocates who have been instrumental in our pursuit of greater transparency in our seas. We are optimistic that the recognition he has received will encourage even more municipal fisherfolk to stand up not only for their rights but for the advancement of the efforts to restore the vibrancy of the Philippines’ marine resources,” said Ramos.
Oceana is an international advocacy organization dedicated to protecting the world’s oceans. Since 2014, Oceana has been working closely with national and local government agencies, civil society, fisherfolk and other stakeholders to restore abundance of Philippine fisheries and marine resources.