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Wednesday, November 24, 2010
NICE to hear the "oohs" and "aahs" of local government executives on the 32,000 hectare Sagay Marine Reserve. It signaled the great changes in Sagay's coastal communities.
Back in 1994, the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources contracted the Broad Initiatives for Negros Development, the NGO I work for to do a socio-economic survey of the proposed marine reserve. PENRO's Errol Gatumbato recommended us for the job.
I took part in the field research. I was one of the enumerators and editor and graphic designer of the final document. (Talk about wearing many hats!)
The funny thing is that the DENR knew we were landlubbers, who work in the opposite vertical direction of coastal communities-that is, toward the mountains. The closest to water issues we are familiar with are from watersheds and freshwater systems, such as rivers and their tributaries.
As development workers in the hinterlands, we studied and applied participatory research tools such as semi-structured interviews, triangulation, focused group discussions, issues ranking, and other forms.
BIND's Executive Director Eva de la Merced prepared the research design by mixing these rapid rural appraisal tools with econometrics for coastal communities before the field researchers headed out to Sagay's coastal communities. It helped that she had experience in social economic research, having worked once for the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources during the time of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
We had three survey crews to simultaneously cover several barangays. We spent three nights in the communities themselves. I found it fun-and yet sad-from the learning experience. I often went beyond the research design to have discussions for a deeper grasp of marine issues from the fisherfolks' perspective.
Some personal observations, which we included in the report. Trawlers and hulbot-hulbots are banned within the 15-kilometer municipal waters. But, BA-AM!!, first day, in full view of everyone, a trawler plying its trade, well within seven kilometers.
Another. We never got to interview the men. Most of the respondents were the wives. Reason: most of the men are out at sea, working for purse seiners, hulbot-hulbots and trawlers. And the bancas and oars are in a state of disrepair and decay, because municipal fishers come back empty-handed. The deep sea boats have scooped up even the fries through their small-eyed nets.
And then in Molocaboc. We rose early so we can cross to the next barangay during the low tide. But instead of sand, we had to wade knee-deep through blackish mud. Later we found out through the locals that the mud was washed out topsoil, brought to the sea from eroded mountains, found their way to freshwater systems, and dredged in the open sea.
To get an understanding of local demographics and gender issues, I interviewed an eighteen-year old female. According to the respondent, kids in her community drop out early from school, marry at age fourteen or fifteen, and single nineteen year olds are considered laon (spinsters). She said she was one of the very few who wanted to continue her schooling.
I haven't been back to these coastal communities since then. Judging from the comments of the Visayan governors, I guess so much has changed since then.
I'll leave it to Cebu Governor Gwen Garcia with the last word on these changes: "I was able to get the aerial view of the whole of more than a hundred hectare mangrove plantation in Sagay City and it's incredible. You could see that the mangrove plantation has protected the island itself as well as spawned from the catch in the sea. It's worth showcasing and emulating."
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Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on November 24, 2010.