'Ka Dodoy': The Ocean Hero of Tañon Strait
Amid the growing hunger and lack of income among local fisherfolk, Roberto “Ka Dodoy” Ballon is not backing down from his efforts to defend the livelihood and the ultimate source of food for their community around Tañon Strait.
Ka Dodoy was recognized as Ocean Hero for 2021 by Oceana and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG). It coincided with the commemoration of the Maritime and Archipelagic Nation Awareness Month (MANA Mo) on September 23.
“Nais kong magpasalamat sa DILG at Oceana para sa pagkilalang ito. Sana sa pamamagitan ng mga parangal na kumikilala sa amin at sa karapatan namin ay mas mapalakas pa natin ang boses ng mga mangingisda. Panahon na upang pakinggan naman kami ng pamahalaan sa usapin ng pangangalaga sa ating karagatan,” said Ballon.
(I want to thank the DILG and Oceana for this recognition. I hope that the awards we have received will help in amplifying the voice of fisherfolk. It is high time that the government listened to the fisherfolk in matters related to ocean conservation.)
The Ocean Hero Award
The Ocean Hero award is given to dauntless protectors of the Tañon Strait Protected Seascape who have consistently worked for ocean conservation and pushed for sustainable fisheries policies. In Tañon Strait, eight fisherfolk were awarded as Ocean Heroes in 2016 and 2017.
“Oceana is fortunate to have found a strong partner in Ka Dodoy who is a staunch advocate for the protection of municipal waters in Zamboanga Sibugay and all over the country. It is always heartwarming to see the hard work of our municipal fisherfolk who have effectively adapted to the new normal of pushing for advocacies during this pandemic,” said Gloria Estenzo Ramos, vice president of Oceana.
Ballon is one of the many municipal fisherfolk who supported and participated in the pilot sessions of the fisherfolk classroom, a virtual lecture that is part of Oceana’s campaign to establish the Fisheries Management Areas (FMA) system. He has been vocal in the opposition to the intrusion of illegal commercial fishing vessels on municipal waters.
“Isa sa mga malalaking problemang kinakaharap ng mga mangingisda ang tahasang pagpasok ng mga naglalakihang ilegal na komersyal na fishing vessels sa mga pangisdaan. Kung kahit ang municipal waters ay pangingisdaan na nila, ano na lang ang matitira sa aming mga maliliit na mangingisda?” said Ballon.
(“One of the biggest challenges faced by municipal fisherfolk is the brazen intrusion of large illegal commercial fishing vessels. If they will encroach on municipal waters and get the fish that we’re supposed to catch, what will be left for us, small-scale fisherfolk?”)
The Terror of Commercial Fishing Vessels in Municipal Waters
Ballon has been vocal about the violations committed by commercial fishing vessels who illegally operate in municipal waters reserved for small fisherfolk. In the Philippines, it is one of the most challenging issues faced by fishermen as they find fewer fish to catch in their waters.
Often, commercial fishing vessels harm the reefs and marine wildlife by trawling, abandoning nets in the ocean, and fishing in municipal waters.
Despite being reserved for the municipal fisherfolk under the Constitution and the Fisheries Code, illegal commercial fishing in municipal waters continues to be a source of misery for thousands of artisanal fisherfolk.
According to data from Oceana’s boat detection platform Karagatan Patrol, apparent commercial fishing in municipal waters continues despite the restrictions posed by the pandemic. The lure lights used by commercial fishing boats can be detected through Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) technology.
Oceana had earlier reported that apparent commercial fishing continued unabated even amid the pandemic, as data from Karagatan Patrol showed only a 4.7 percent decrease, from 44,952 in 2019 to 42,934 in 2020.
Palawan topped the list of provinces with 6,964 of the 44,952 in 2019 and with 6,202 detected out of the total of 42,934 in 2020. Masbate follows with 5,614 in 2019 and 5,721 in 2020.
For both 2019 and 2020, Zamboanga City has been consistently on top of the cities and municipalities with the highest number of night light detections inside the municipal waters, followed by Tongkil in Sulu, Milagros and San Pascual in Masbate, and then Hadji Muhammad Ajul, completing the top five local governments.
Earlier this year, the DILG wrote to the top 20 hotspot municipalities and cities with the highest number of apparent intrusions of commercial fishing vessels inside municipal waters, requiring an explanation in their efforts to address illegal fishing. The list of hotspot municipalities and cities was based on the maps and VIIRS data shared by Oceana.