FOUR members of the fishing community in the Visayas have been honored as the country’s first “Ocean Heroes Awardees” on the World Oceans Day last week.
The received the accolades for putting their life on the line and waging relentless campaign against fishermen op-erating illegally, using destructive fishing methods in the Tañon Strait, the country’s largest marine protected area between Cebu and Negros islands.
The poachers had shot at and seriously injured Norlan Pagal, of Barangay Anapog, San Remigio, Cebu. Pagal’s spinal cord was hit and he is now unable to walk. However, he says: “I am not afraid to continue my advocacy against ille-gal fishing, even if I lose my life.”
An unknown assailant also critically wounded Oliver Dayupay, the president of a fisherfolk association in Barangay Iniban, Ayungon, Negros Oriental,, as he and his fellow fishermen vigorously protected their marine sanctuary. Dayupay died of the injury on June 1.
Roberto Quigay, of Barangay 6, San Carlos City, Negros Occidental, leads his fellow fishermen against dynamite fishing and other illegal activities the marine sanctuaries off Sipaway Island, their main source of livelihood..
In Negros Oriental,Veda L. Raunillo, of Sitio Kinayan, Barangay. Bulado, Guihulngan, continues to implement a ma-rine protection and mangrove rehabilitation program in their community despite physical harassments and grave threats to life.
These men, said the vice president of Oceana Philippines, Atty Gloria Estenzo, “exemplify thousands of yet un-known and unsung heroes, who choose to be in the frontlines in the best way they know, so that we will all have a sustainable ocean to feed and nurture our children, and their children’s children.
The “Ocean Heroes Award” was conducted in partnership with the Department of Environment and Natural Re-sources (DENR) as well as its Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Re-sources (BFAR).
The pioneering “Ocean Heroes Award” seeks to honor and acknowledge residents in the Tañon Strait Protected Seascape (TSPS) who have consistently worked for its protection, fought against destructive projects and illegal fishing, ensured enforcement of fisheries laws and protection of marine habitats and species, and influenced oth-ers to take action for oceans conservation and effect policies geared towards sustainable fisheries management.
The four Ocean Heroes awardees—one each from Cebu, Negros Oriental, Negros Occidental, and from the wom-en’s sector—were selected from 11 final nominees, who each received token prizes, consisting of fishing equip-ment and paraphernalia.
The four top awardees received P50,000 each, half of which in cash and the rest as financing their respective pro-jects.
With the award he has collected, Norlan Pagal plans to boost the capital of Anapog Fisherman Association’s ‘biga-san’ or rice retail store, and support a sea cucumber-clamshell-abalone seeding project.
Eden, the wife of Oliver Dayupay who died fighting poachers, said the award given to her husband will be used for raising goats as a supplemental livelihood for fellow Ayungon fisherfolk.
Roberto Quigay, of Negros Occidental, will buy fishing gears, fish aggregating devices and second-hand bancas for the San Carlos Fishermen’s Association, and floating buoys for their marine sanctuary in Sipaway Island.
Veda L. Raunillo, will buy office equipment and other needs to support the coastal management activities in Gui-hulngan City, Negros Oriental.
“We hope the Ocean Heroes Award will be conducted every year, and rest assured the DENR through the Biodi-versity Management Bureau shall continue its support, as we jointly recognize remarkable individuals who consist-ently worked to protect the Tañon Strait against illegal fishing activities,” said DENR-BMB Director Mundita Lim, who was keynote speaker during the award ceremony.
“This event is an important gathering of stakeholders. The sustainability of Tañon Strait depends on the participa-tion and involvement of stakeholders in terms of fisheries management and protection,” said DENR Region 7 direc-tor Isabelo Montejo.
Finally, the Ocean Heroes Award, said Benjamin Tabios, Jr., the assistant director of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, “strengthens the relationship of government and civil society, such as Oceana, who are work-ing together for the common good and well-being of Filipinos.”