WOMEN’S participation in the fisheries sector is less acknowledged because it is mostly dominated by men. However, it’s a different story when I worked as a Coastal Resource Management (CRM) staff of the municipality of Cortes, Surigao del Sur between 2014 until February 2015.
Now as a site action staff of Haribon’s, my first assigned People’s Organization (POs) is KAAMPAKA (Kadagatan Ampingan Pagmata Katawhan) of Brgy. Burgos, a Marine Protected Area (MPA)-based organization in which members render voluntary service as bantay dagat.
They are also beneficiaries of start-up capital from Foundation for Sustainable Society (FSSI) for dried fish processing.
Here, PO members are composed mostly of women, who are more active in group discussions than men.
During my stint as a CRM staff of the local government, I learned something new from its members like Bonifacia Maquiling, a resident of Sitio Egang, Brgy. Burgos.
She told me that women like her and their husbands from the sitio who routinely guard the area’s MPA would walk two kilometers to reach the guardhouse. Some women would bring their children so they could look after them while working. For patrolling the site, LGU (Local Government Unit) provides P3,000 monthly incentive that is shared among its 43 members (18 of whom are women), still a considerably large figure since most fisher folk organizations don’t generally classify women as legitimate members.
NAKU (Nagkahiusang Kababayen-an sa Uba) of Brgy. Uba is the first organization recognized by the local government of Cortes as an all-women organization managing an MPA. This group of 38 women work for eight hours a day, seven days a week since they were established in 2011. The same amount of monthly incentive is shared among the group. They are equipped with one binocular and a logbook to indicate the time and activities seen within the vicinity of the MPA. The women use their own mobile phones for communication and reporting.
In the said village, many people consider women as much more aggressive enforcers than men because they are vocal and intimidating to violators. When asked why they are voluntarily doing such a difficult job, Chairperson of NAKU, Dominga Dagooc replied, “This is our last hope because Uba is a coastal barangay. No family here owns land. The sea is the only treasure that we have, that’s why we are willing to protect this area for succeeding generations.”
This group of women also participates in regular coastal bayanihan, weekly clean-ups, and guardhouse routine maintenance and repair or locally known as “tagbo” which is traditionally considered a man’s job.
NAKU also accepts catering services within the barangay as part of their income generating activities. They can earn as much as P6,000 to P8,000 for a maximum of 30 people.
On October 2015, Uba MPA was recognized as one of the top ten best managed MPA’s in the Philippines during the 5th Para El Mar MPA Awards and Recognition held at the Greenleaf Hotel in General Santos City, South Cotabato.
The women managing the MPA’s of Burgos and Uba made me realize that they play major roles in the fisheries and conservation sectors. Their efforts are daily sacrifices for our country’s coastal conservation.