Ramon Magsaysay Awards

Dream come true: Ramon Magsaysay awardee to get hatchery in Zamboanga Sibugay

Antonio Manaytay
Dream come true: Ramon Magsaysay awardee to get hatchery in Zamboanga Sibugay

Roberto Ballon, 2021 Ramon Magsaysay awardee for community environmentalism

Antonio Manaytay/Rappler

Roberto Ballon's fisherfolk group has long wanted to stop sourcing their fingerlings from the mangroves they planted because that disturbs the environment and ecological balance of the area

For 2021 Ramon Magsaysay awardee Roberto Ballon, who thinks having food for his family is an award in itself, having a hatchery for fingerlings in the coastal town of Kabasalan in Zamboanga Sibugay is a dream come true.

Ballon, the Filipino awardee of this year’s Ramon Magsaysay Awards, wanted a hatchery where they could source the fingerlings of high-value fish, crablets, and oysters spawn for their fish cages.

That dream is coming true right before his very eyes.

Ballon’s group, the Kapunungan sa Gagmay ng Mangingisda Sa Concepcion, will benefit from a memorandum of agreement between the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) and the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center (SEAFDEC), an intergovernmental agency that promotes sustainability in fisheries and aquaculture among member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Both agencies signed on Monday, September 6, a cooperation agreement to set up a hatchery from where Ballon’s group could source the fingerlings they need.

Ballon’s group has long wanted to stop sourcing their fingerlings from the mangroves they planted because that disturbs the environment and ecological balance of the area. The members of the association Ballon leads have planted no less than 500 hectares since 2001.

The best way to do this is to establish a hatchery for the fingerlings, according to Ballon.

SEAFDEC chief Dan Baliao said the hatcheries could be easily set up in Kabasalan town.

It takes only P200,000, for instance, to set up one oyster hatchery to produce spots or baby oysters, he added.

Simple dreams

Ballon said he never thought of winning this year’s prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Award for community environmentalism.

“Having food to feed my family and a roof on our head is already an award for me,” Ballon, a father of eight, said.

“Simple dreams,” he added.

Ballon recalled the time when he and his fellow fisherfolk would sell the best of their fish catch and then bring home the smaller ones for their families.

“We didn’t have the luxury of eating big fishes then,” said Ballon, his eyes moistened. 

But things have changed now, he beamed.

The association, according to Ely Heis, the secretary of the group, has seven fish cage modules. Each module has a dozen cages.

Every cage, Heis said, could yield no less than 100 kilograms every five months. At P500 per kilo, the group earns at least P600,000 for each module.

“We now earn decently as fishermen,” Heis said. 

Care for the environment 

Care for the environment would eventually pay off in the long run, he said.

Several of the founding members of the association had left because of the uncertainty of “what we were doing,” but soon, many realized that they were in the right direction. 

At present, the association has 320 members.

Ballon said he did not even know exactly what prize he would receive as Ramon Magsaysay awardee, and neither did he have an idea about how prestigious the award is.

MinDA chair Emmanuel Piñol said the award, which Ballon would receive later this year, carries a $20,000 prize (P998,806.93).

On top of it, Piñol added, is the “realization of his dream hatchery.”

“Indeed, blessings sometimes come as twins,” Piñol said. – Rappler.com

*$1 = P49.9403

Antonio Manaytay is a Mindanao-based journalist and an awardee of the Aries Rufo Journalism Fellowship.