Bantay Dagat members help protect Albay ecotourism destination
LIGAO CITY, Philippines – For 9 years now, Rodolfo Yuson has been watching the seas along Albay's west coast, waging war against illegal fishing.
Yuson, 54, is a resident of Sitio Tambac in Barangay Maonon in Ligao City, Albay. He is one of the 11 members of the Bantay Dagat team in the area.
As guardians of the sea, Yuson and his fellow Bantay Dagat members are on the lookout round-the-clock to ensure that no fishermen would encroach in a 135-hectare marine reserve and fish sanctuary located along Burias Pass.
For their efforts, the Bantay Dagat team members get a P4,000 monthly honorarium each from the Ligao City government.
Yuson recalled that the fish catch in the west coast of Albay had dwindled in the early 2000s due to poachers.
Since 2006, according to Ligao City environment officer Maria Soledad Preyna, fishing has been banned within the marine reserve and fish sanctuary.
The aim? "Bring back the waning fish stock in west coast and Burias Pass to benefit the local fishers and upcoming generations," said Preyna.
By 2010, fish and other marine species had gradually recovered, following the joint efforts by the Bantay Dagat, Philippine Army, Philippine National Police, and local government officials.
"It was a tough job for us because we [were] fighting the big-time illegal fishers from Bicol and even other fishers from neighboring regions, but with the help of the government authorities we were able to weed them out from our territorial waters," Yuson said.
While guarding the seas, Bantay Dagat members are also helping to reforest mangroves, which can protect communities from possible storm surges.
A vast tract of mangroves can be found in Sitio Tambac in Barangay Maonon and Sito Sawang in Barangay Cabadian.
Local government officials had a wooden catwalk constructed so the mangrove forest is easily accessible.
Albay 3rd District Representative Fernando Gonzalez said he wants to develop the mangrove forest as a tourist attraction while still protecting the area.
"There are 20 varieties of mangrove species here.... We put up the catwalk for tourists to easily tour around while communing with nature," he said.
Adjacent to the mangroves is the powdery white Maonon Beach, which has become popular with local tourists.
"We're happy that while watching the seas, our place where Maonon Beach is located is now the new favorite destination of tourists," Yuson said. – Rappler.com