San Miguel Corporation (SMC) has partnered with "Bantay Dagat" (Sea Guardian) in Calatagan, Batangas as part of its corporate-wide initiative to promote healthy seas and ensure sustainable livelihood for small fishing communities, especially in areas where it operates.

SMC donated patrol boats to the Calatagan community task force that enlists fisherfolk in coastal villages to help enforce coastal and fisheries laws - particularly against the use of illegal fishing methods and illegal equipment.

A boat each was also given to the Municipality of Calatagan and the Philippine Air Force based in Batangas to boost patrolling in the area.

SMC also made a larger donation of 19 motorized boats for local fisherfolk groups, to be used primarily for their livelihood.

"With our humble contribution to the local Bantay Dagat task force, we hope to provide them additional tools to help curb illegal fishing and other activities destructive to marine ecosystems in this area," SMC president Ramon S. Ang said.

"Our goal is to help preserve and protect marine resources, so that local fisherfolk can sustain and even improve their livelihoods for the long-term. The sea is their primary source of food and income. We want to help where we can make the biggest difference - in this case, empowering locals to better protect the seas and their livelihoods - and bring tangible, sustainable benefits in communities where we operate," he added.

Last February, the Provincial Government of Batangas honored the Calatagan Bantay Dagat as the best sea guardian group in the Bravo (Batangas Recognition Awards for Verde Passage Outstanding Marine Protected Areas and Bantay Dagat) Awards. Bravo recognizes local government units in the administration of marine protected areas and Bantay Dagat groups in the protection of municipal waters.

Just beyond the Batangas coastline lies Verde Island Passage, a strait between Luzon and Mindoro known around the world as among the richest in terms of marine biodiversity.

"Malaking bagay po para sa amin ang pagkakabigay ng mga bangka. Malaking tulong po sa aming operations, malaking tulong rin para sa maliliit na mangingisda," said Vivencio de Guzman, a member of the Bantay Dagat in Calatagan, Batangas.

Some 57 fisherfolk will co-own the boats and benefit from the donation. The fisherfolk, who have never owned fishing boats, are mostly from towns of Calatagan and Balayan.

Ang underscored the importance of balancing livelihood and the need to preserve marine resources for fisherfolk.

"While providing them new homes has been our foremost priority, we also learned many of the Balayan and Calatagan fisherfolk never owned fishing boats. This has made both community patrolling and livelihood very difficult for them. Fortunately, we were able to source these boats from local communities. We formed the fisherfolk into groups to share ownership and upkeep of these boats," said Ang.

Aside from helping, Ang said SMC teaches fisherfolk other ways of generating income.