Constant dialogue makes environment drive in Surigao Sur town successful

GENERAL ISLANDS, CANTILAN, Surigao del Sur (MindaNews/1 September) – Fisherfolks in a small island off the municipality of Cantilan, Surigao del Sur prove that constant dialogue can give results to an environment-conscious populace.

The Nagkahiusang Mananagat Para sa Kalambuan Nan Ayoke (NAGMAKA-AYO) in Ayoke Island in Isla General in Cantilan have bonded themselves in the fight against illegal fishing and in the protection of a marine sanctuary.

For one, the fisherfolks constructed a guardhouse on the topmost part of the island for them to get the most strategic view of the coming and going of boats, illegal trespassers and unwelcome visitors to their island.

The guardhouse, according to NAGMAKA-AYO chairperson Crisologo E. Anino, is manned by group members on rotation basis and open 24/7.

Anino said they regularly conduct meetings and consultations with their members, and even non-members, on the effects of illegal fishing.

Anino said NAGMAKA-AYO started in 1998 with 65 members but this has been reduced to 33 because so many of its members violated their by-laws.

But despite the decline in membership, the group still managed to apprehend 14 illegal poachers since 2006, especially with the passage of Municipal Ordinance No. 16 (Declaring Marine Protected Areas and Fish Sanctuaries), which helped further in raising environmental consciousness among residents.

“We always tell them not to do dynamite fishing because of the risk it will do to their lives and the future generation,” said Carlos E. Consigna, of NAGMAKA-AYO, of their meetings with members and non-members alike.

Often his friends snub him because of his doggedness while others consider him an irritant to small group gatherings.

“This is also true to some of our members but eventually those who were hardheaded realized the goodness of our cause,” Consigna said.

Illegal fishing activities in Ayoke include dynamite fishing, liba-liba, cyanide, tubli (or root poison) and other common illegal fishing activities.

Anino said because of the heightened environmental awareness of residents and fisherfolks, their underwater corals have grown. But he admitted that at present, their fish catch is low because of the presence of mining companies in neighboring municipalities.

They believe that the siltation brought about by mining has caused turbidity in the water which causes fish, especially bangsi, to shy away. Bangsi, or flying fish, is the most common catch among local fisherfolks.

Meanwhile, Anino narrated a most unforgettable incident by fellow members in arresting an illegal poacher some years back. He said because of their unsophisticated small bancas, they ended up hostages to the illegal poachers instead.

Anino said that they were only using ropes to tie the outrigger of the poacher’s boat to their bancas. “Since the poachers usually have more powerful engines compared to our 16-horsepower bancas, they dragged us in the middle of the Pacific seas,” Anino said.

“In the end, it was us who begged for their mercy to release us. We were already scared because our motorized bancas could not stand the high seas. But God is so good because those illegal fishers eventually freed us,” he said, now in jest.

Anino said despite the harrowing experience, they will still continue their campaign against illegal fishing and apprehend illegal poachers who come near their sanctuary.

NAGMAKA-AYO and another local fisherfolk organization in their area called Slamdunk are among the top 10 organizations in the country awarded as the best sustained practice of marine protected sanctuary areas by the Marine Protected Area Support Network based at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City.

Cherry A. Ravelo, municipal coastal resource management coordinator, said that representatives of NAGMAKA-AYO and Slamdunk (which is based in Barangay Proper, General Islands) will be going to Manila for the reporting activity. On October 1, both organizations will receive the award for the Top 10 best MPAs in the country.

The network recognizes the best practices based on four level of MPAs, namely, Level 1 for Established MPAs; Level 2 for Strengthened MPAs; Level 3 for Sustained MPA; and Level 4 for Institutionalized MPA.

The network has management effectiveness assessment tools which aim to assess governance in terms of enforcement, implementation and maintenance for the MPAs around the country.
(Roel N. Catoto / MindaNews)