Miracle catch through mangroves: Ramon Magsaysay awardee hopes program can be replicated

Benise Balaoing, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 06 2021 02:19 PM | Updated as of Sep 06 2021 03:11 PM

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MANILA -- A Filipino fisherfolk leader and environmentalist who won the Ramon Magsaysay Award is hoping that his program to help fishermen will now be replicated in other areas of the country.

Roberto "Ka Dodoy" Ballon, 53, was recognized for his "shining example how everyday acts of heroism can truly be extraordinary and transformative."

“Malaking pasasalamat po namin sa Ramon Magsaysay Awards Foundation dahil po sa pamamagitan ng binigay nilang award, ay isa ho itong pamamaraan para po mapaabot natin sa ating kasamahang mangingisda sa iba pong lugar na sana magaya o gawin din nila, na kung ano yung ginawa namin dito na kung saan ito yung paraan na umahon kami sa kahirapan. Sana makarating din ito sa iba pang mga lugar sa buong Pilipinas at ibang bansa,” he said.

Ballon said he did not expect to be feted for his work.

“Hindi tayo makapaniwala na sa layo ng Zamboanga Sibugay at tayo’y isang simple lamang na mangingisda na ginagawa lamang yung programa natin para protektahan at alagaan yung ating marine resources sa dagat, para isa sa mga pamamaraan po namin na maihanon ang aming mga kabuhayan o mga pamilya,” he said.

In 1986, Ballon and 30 other fishermen founded Kapunungan sa Gamay nga Mangingisda sa Concepcion and led mangrove reforestation program to increase the catch of fishermen in their community.

“Noon kasi nung mga dekada, ochenta sitenta ay napakarami talagang isda sa aming lugar. Iba’t ibang uri ng mga yamang tubig, alimasag, alimango, at marami yung kabuhayan. Pagdating ng mga bandang 2000, talagang naghihirap na kami dahil pansin namin na talagang nauubos na yung mga isda, at napansin din namin noon na nung maraming isda at maganda ang aming huli napansin namin na napakarami noong mangroves,” he told ANC’s “Rundown.”

“Kaya ito na rin ang naisipan naming gawin kaya oo nga, dapat ibalik naming yung mga nawawala na mangrove,” he said.

The Ramon Magsaysay Awards Foundation website noted that because of this program, fish catch improved dramatically from 1.5 kilos per fishing trip of eight hours to as much as seven kilos in three to five hours of fishing.

This improved the quality of life of the fishermen, allowing them to buy boats or simple household appliances, and send their children to school.

The Ramon Magsaysay Award is the highest accolade in Asia, dubbed as the region's version of the Nobel Prize.

---ANC, 6 September 2021