Bringing Back the Sparkle to Siargao’s Shores

Mang Jun gingerly picks up a giant mud crab as it races across the sand in Del Carmen, Siargao and hands it over to a buyer, who looks at the huge crab and signals he will buy everything. Business has been good, and Mang Jun smiles as the buyer hands over the money.

For the longest time, Mang Jun earned his keep through cyanide fishing, an illegal activity that was not only dangerous, but also paid little. He was finally able to abandon it with the help of the Kaanib ng mga Mangingisda at Magsasakang Numancia Agri-Aqua (KaMAMANA), a people’s organization dedicated to finding legal and sustainable livelihoods for marginal fisherfolk.

Mang Jun’s successful transition from a cyanide fisherman to a mud crab farmer is just one of the many stories worth telling so that people and communities can understand what climate change mitigation and adaptation mean to them.

To bring these stories to light, Metro Pacific Investments Corporation (MPIC) recently held a workshop to help journalists share these stories to inspire people to do something about climate change. The need for communication is especially urgent considering the massive destruction of the country’s mangrove population, which has gone down from 375,020 hectares (ha) in 1950 to only 139,100 ha in 1988, due largely to activities such as cyanide fishing and improper harvesting of mangroves for charcoal or fuel wood. Stories such as Mang Jun’s make the concept of climate change adaptation real and concrete to ordinary folk.

The workshop is the third of a series of four seminar-workshops on climate change, agriculture, and food security conducted for the Philippine regional media cosponsored by the CCAFS Regional Program for Southeast Asia in collaboration with the Philippine Agriculture Journalists, Inc., the MVP Group of Companies, and the Department of Agriculture with the Philippine Network of Environmental Journalists and Philippine Science Journalists, Inc. as partners. It was attended by 40 journalists; also in attendance were 76 student journalists from 27 schools in Siargao, accompanied by their advisers.

As part of the workshop, participants also visited the Mangrove Protection and Information Center and the mangrove view deck in Del Carmen which are part of the Shore it Up Mangrove Project. Restored by MPIC, this is a center for the protection and propagation of mangroves in island’s estuaries, and the rehabilitation of degraded mangrove ecosystems, among others. Due to be launched this year is the Alaminos Mangrove Propagation and Information
Center. The Mangrove Center in Bohol, planned to be launched soon after, completes the nationwide presence of the project.

For MPIC, communicating these stories to galvanize people to action is particularly important. Over the past few years, MPIC has been working closely with various agencies and organizations to help arrest the destruction of the country’s mangroves, which protect communities against storms, shield coastlines against flooding, and serve as vital habitats for the Philippines’ rich marine life. The conservation of mangroves is a key component of Shore It Up, the MVP Group’s flagship environment program and its response to the threats of climate change. Implemented in partnership with LGUs, government agencies and volunteers, the program aims for sustainable development through the preservation and conservation of the country’s diverse and rich marine resources in order to help mitigate the increasingly destructive effects of climate change.

Shore It Up’s core activity, which has attracted over 75,000 volunteers since 2009, is more than an environmental awareness campaign. Its holistic approach to environmental preservation involves mangrove and tree planting, giant clam rearrangement and seeding, artificial reef restoration and environmental education seminars for volunteers, residents of coastal communities, and their children. It was as a result of these activities that fisherfolk like Mang Jun have abandoned their environmentally destructive practices and embraced more sustainable livelihood activities.

Citing an immediate positive impact of Shore It Up, the local government of Siargao in Surigao del Norte reported a significant decrease (35%) in mangrove wood harvesting and use as a result of the campaign. This proves the effectiveness of the program and the mindset change that mangroves are for better use than ornaments or firewood.

Shore It Up also involves underwater cleanup activities, for which the program has gathered close to three hundred divers from the MVP group and various private and government organizations. The first underwater cleanup yielded 526.5 kilograms (kg) of garbage from the dive site 30 meters away from the sea wall. Around 1,363.3 kg of trash was also gathered by over 300 non-diver volunteers, who cleaned up the seaside boulevard and nearby coastal areas. A total of 1.89 metric tons of trash were collected during that cleanup weekend. Several cleanups have been held since then.

“There are many success stories that we have to share with the rest of the world to inspire them [and show] that they can do their part in environmental preservation. We believe that training journalists [will] enable them to communicate the concepts of climate change and make these real to Filipinos,” says Melody del Rosario, MPIC vice president for corporate communications. “When Shore It Up started in 2008, our vision was simply to raise awareness on the importance of biological diversity for areas around coastal communities. The project has come a long way since then—from mere coastal and underwater cleanup activities, we have started to cover the education and infrastructure ends of marine environmental rescue, restoration, and revival.”

This appeared without a byline in Agriculture Monthly’s January 2016 issue.

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