MANILA — Former senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio said Wednesday they believed the Badjao ethnic group could help in the protection of the country's maritime resources and fight against illegal fishing.
Marcos and Duterte-Carpio, who are eyeing the presidency and vice presidency, respectively, said Badjaos have the skills to become "force multipliers" in the implementation of marine environment protection laws.
"Being expert fishermen, deep-sea divers, and navigators, Badjaos possess the skills to become effective 'Bantay Dagat' deputies," they said in a joint statement.
"Their heritage and culture have always been tied to the sea, and they can be an invaluable ally in our environmental protection efforts," they said.
The Badjaos are an ethnic group usually identified as sea gypsies because they live in coastal areas of Mindanao.
The Bantay Dagat, meanwhile, is a civilian force that helps protect the country's marine environment.
Inclusion in the Bantay Dagat program, which is currently under the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, will give Badjaos an opportunity for employment, the tandem added.
Marcos and Duterte-Carpio said they would ensure that Badjaos have more access to livelihood projects and education.
"Like most Filipinos, they (Badjaos) too aspire for a brighter future. We see livelihood and education as the two essential elements to lift them out of poverty," they said.