By Ben Serrano
Declining number of volunteers to monitor and guard fish and bird sanctuaries in Caraga Region has hinder protection efforts to save marine protected and coastal t areas in the region.
This was the initial observation gathered from existing people’s organization themselves during three day consultation and monitoring visits of few remaining fish and bird sanctuaries conducted by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) team, personnel from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Central Office and the regional offices of concerned government agencies in Caraga.
From May 9 to 12, UNDP led project SMART SEAS Philippines officials and member organizations visited municipalities within Lanuza Bay area in Surigao del Sur , conduct visitation, monitoring and brief consultation with different people’s organizations like fish and bird sanctuaries associations, Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and Local Government Units concerned.
The monitoring team also composed of non-government organizations like Haribon Foundation, Global Environment Facility (GEF) and lumad group KATRIMA officials from Surigao del Sur and others later joined the team from Manila in the visits.
Officials and members of Caglayag Fisher Folks Association in Barangay Caglayag, Carasscal town ,; LGU officials and concerned personnel and officials of the Municipal Agriculture and Fisheries Office of Carasscal; Burgos Fish and Bird Sanctuary Association in Barangay Burgos; KAAMPAKA o Kadagatan Ampingan Pagmata Katawhan Ampingan; all in Cortes, Surigao del Sur, all admitted declined of volunteers over the years to join people’s organizations to watch, manned fish and bird sanctuaries.
Officials and members of Islanhong Andam Magdumala Sa Kinaiyahan (Islanders Ready to Manage, Protect the Environment) ISLAMDUNK, who have been organized since 2004 admitted the organization itself suffered declining membership saying from original 58 islander pioneering members in 2004 now it reduced significantly to 28 individual members.
ISLAMDUNK is one of the remaining people’s organization by which all members are volunteers in the region manning full time a fish sanctuary in Barangay General Island, Cantilan, Surigao del Sur.
ISLAMDUNK founding president Sulpecio Navarro attributed the rapid decline of volunteers to lack of government, private sector and community support, poverty forcing members to migrate to other places to seek opportunities and some find employment at mining companies.
Navarro, now Barangay General Island councilor who has been attending many joint Caraga people’s organizations’ (POs) meetings manning fish and bird sanctuaries claimed, some POs, fish and bird sanctuaries associations were already dismantled.
Navarro and current ISLAMDUNK President Manuel Eliaso that nearby people’s organization Caglayag Fisher Folks Association were already turned over to the Carasscal LGU after their said association manned previously by volunteers without LGU’s help decided all to quit.
Now, the group is run by the local government unit not like ISLAMDUNK managed purely by civilian volunteers with no government intervention.
Coastal areas covered by Lanuza Bay were seven municipalities namely Carrascal, Cantilan, Madrid, Carmen, Lanuza, Cortes, and Tandag City.
It has total area of 175,000 hectares of coastal areas or within municipal waters of the seven local government units.
Municipal waters are measured 15 kilometers away from shores of a municipality. These areas are also called the Municipal Fishing Waters.
Faced with increasing degradation of its fishery resources due to overfishing, lately some concerns in mining affecting some areas, use of active and illegal fishing gear, the local government units and the private sector decided to work together to address these concerns and formed Lanuza Bay Development Alliance (LBDA).
Within Lanuza Bay areas are four large scale mining firms operating and have established wharfs or ports for ocean-going vessels in hauling mineral ores.