Patrolling marine protected areas daily is not an easy task, and doing it without daily wage is a sacrifice not many would make. However that’s exactly what the women in Cortes, Surigao del Sur, are doing as volunteers. As mothers, they saw the value of guarding the sea for their families and future generations’ survival.
It all started when the women wanted to augment their family income by catching fish through traditional yet effective fish traps or what the locals call bunsod.
Bunsod allowed women to stay in the coastline to catch fish while men went to sea. To help them acquire the requested materials, Haribon introduced the palit-tanim scheme, where Haribon asked their assistance in the restoration of mangroves in exchange for funds to set-up bunsod.
Eventually women were encouraged to participate in the daily patrolling of their bunsod and later in a marine protected area (MPA), the Burgos Fish & Birds Sanctuary. In fact, it was the women who suggested to the local government of Cortes to make their MPA as a featured eco-tourism site so the PO could eventually earn more income from it.
Today, there are 18 women, all mothers, who voluntarily patrol the 75 hectare MPA and keep watch in the guardhouse while their husbands are fishing. It’s a 24/7 job, with day and night shifts round the clock. Women are very effective in guarding the area. They serve as guards through mobile communication and in confronting the illegal fishers where they naturally excel in reporting and writing.
The LGU of Cortes provides a monthly incentive for all the volunteers. This amount is used for supplies and food. Often, these mothers bring their children to so they can keep their eye on them while they are on the site.
Mary Jane Pame, a mother of two kids, knows the importance of protecting the waters while keeping her children safe with her. She shares, “Our family and the whole community that depend on the sea for livelihood should take great care of it. And I want to show my kids the value of keeping our MPA clean and secure so that they can enjoy its beauty and provide us food for many years to come.”
The Burgos Birds and Fish Sanctuary was established on April 1997. It is managed by the KAAMPAKA (Kadagatan Ampingan Pagmata Katawhan). It was founded by at least five fishers in Barangay Burgos, where the MPA is located. Membership later expanded to 20 fishers and now with 40 members including women.
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