Senator Cynthia Villar, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food, has lauded Ramon Magsaysay awardee Roberto “Ka Dodoy” Ballon, a fisherman from Zamboanga Sibugay province.
Ballon was recognized for “his inspiring determination in leading his fellow fisherfolk to revive a dying fishing industry.”
In 1986, Ballon and 30 other small-scale fishermen started Kapunungan sa Gamay nga Mangingisda sa Concepcion. The association restored mangrove forests in Kabalasan town, where fishpond conversion and abandonment of fishponds were rampant, causing the destruction of mangrove forests.
With government backing, Ballon and his fellow fisherfolk transformed abandoned fishponds into 500 hectares of healthy mangrove forests.
“Ka Dodoy serves as an inspiration and role model to fisherfolks and all Filipinos that genuine concern for other’s welfare and for the environment combined with a determination to do something is not only personally rewarding but will be rewarded and recognized as well, “ said Villar.
Ballon’s efforts led to an improvement in local fish catch, from only 1.5 kilograms in an eight-hour fishing trip to as much as 7 kilograms in three to five hours of fishing. This also helped improve the quality of life of local fishermen.
Villar said: “There are really huge benefits in protecting mangroves forests. Mangroves are not only the best protection against storm surges particularly in coastal communities. They also serve as nesting grounds of fish; it is where they lay eggs. Fish catch really improves when mangroves are protected.”
Villar, also the current chairperson of the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, is a staunch advocate of mangroves planting and protection. One of her environmental programs is at the Las Piñas-Parañaque Wetland Park.
The Ramon Magsaysay Award is Asia’s equivalent to the Nobel Prize. It is given to individuals or organizations in Asia who manifest the “same selfless service and transformative influence that ruled the life” of the Philippines’ seventh President, who died tragically in an airplane crash.