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Friday, February 14, 2020

Kabasalan folks band to protect, sustain environment

ZAMBOANGA SIBUGAY – Villagers and stakeholders in the town of Kabasalan in the southern province of Zamboanga Sibugay have turned an impoverished coastal community into a bustling center of development and environmental conservation.

In the village of Concepcion, they worked hard for the re-emergence of marine resources – fighting illegal fishing and mangrove planting in Sibuguey Bay. 

In a learning exchange organized by Peace and Equity Foundation (PEF) with the fisher folk from Padre Burgos in the village of Quezon, the chairman of the Kapunungan ng Gagmay Mangingisda ng Concepcion (KGMC), Roberto Ballon told a story of revival that brought their community to be one of the most successful and inspiring when it comes to community empowerment.

“Noong 1960s at 1970s marami talagang isda dito. Ang ilog dati ay malalim. Ngunit nang dumating ang ibang mga tao mula sa Luzon at Visayas, nagsimulang magbago ang lugar,” Ballon said, narrating how the mangroves were destroyed by other fishermen and effectively blocking the flow of the river to pave way for fishponds and eventually resulted in fewer catch.

“Nang bumaba ang kita ng mga mangingisda, pumasok sila sa mga illegal activities. Noong may pumasok na commercial fishers, nagkaroon ng dynamite at cyanide fishing. Ginawa din ito ng mga mangingisda dito,” he said.

The unabated destruction of environment and subsequent loss of income forced Ballon and other villagers to swiftly act and stop it. And with the help of Xavier Agricultural Extension Service Foundation and the International Fund for Agricultural Development, KGMC members began planting mangroves and trained as “bantay-dagat” to patrol the sea against illegal activities.

The successful planting of mangroves has brought back fish in Sibuguey Bay and seeing its effect on the environment, the local government passed a resolution that protected the mangrove forest in the entire town.

“Nire-recognize namin ang local government ng Kabasalan na aming partner to pursue coastal protection programs and other projects that will benefit the people and the community. Ngayon nararamdaman namin ang suporta nila,” Ballon said, adding, 
all coastal protection programs by the local government are now being consulted with KGMC.

The convergence has brought prosperity to Concepcion, with some households able to send their children to school, buy appliances, and provide for their basic needs, according to organizers. The success of the community later expanded through a provincial organization founded by Ballon, the Coalition of Municipal Association of Zamboanga Sibugay. (Zamboanga Post)

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