DAGUPAN CITY -- Two men who made an impact on the aquaculture industry in the Philippines through the years were feted on Tuesday when they were made to leave their footprints on concrete tablets in front of the Asian Fisheries Academy (AFA) at the National Integrated Fisheries Technology Development Center (NIFTDC) here.
The two are Dr. Rafael D. Guerrero III, who was honored for promoting all-male tilapia culture in the Philippines, and Maximo Abesamis, a businessman from Pangasinan, who was a pioneer in commercial milkfish farming in sea cages in the Philippines.
Before officials of various fishery schools and students from different parts of northern Luzon, Guerrero and Abesamis removed their shoes and socks and set their foot on concrete tablets where six other leaders and supporters of the aquaculture industry did the same earlier.
The two, both in their '70s, were honored as part of the "Giant Steps" program of the Society of Aquaculture Engineers of the Philippines, Inc. (SAEP) and the Philippine Aquaculture Society Inc. (PAS), supported by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR).
Dr. Westly Rosario, NIFTDC chief and PAS and SAEP president, said Guerrero and Abesamis were honored because of their outstanding contributions and works in aquaculture which they shared to fish farmers all over the country so that they could improve their harvests and incomes.
The other previous "Giant Step" honorees were former House Speaker Jose C. de Venecia Jr., prime mover of vannamei (white shrimp) farming in the Philippines; Pierre Morrissens, a global scientist and catalyst of Saline Tilapia Molobicus program in collaboration with BFAR; Dr. Herminio Rabanal, father of Modern Philippine Aqua Culture; Dr. Wilfredo Yap, who conceptualized the Mariculture Park System; Dr. Catalino de la Cruz, a pioneering expert on Aqua Culture Engineering and Integrated Aqua Culture Farming; and Dr. Emilia Quinto, who introduced fish cage farming.
Guerrero, one of the two new "Giant Steps" honorees, was dean of College of Inland Fisheries of the Central Luzon State University. He also worked as director for Training and Extension of the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center's Aquaculture Department.
He was also former executive director of the Philippine Council for Aquatic and Marine Research and Development.
He has been a consultant for aquaculture of various government and private corporations such as the Technology and Livelihood Resource Center, San Miguel Corporation and the Meralco Foundation.
On tilapia, Guerrero observed that one of the most prominent problems to the culture of the fish is overpopulation. With this in mind, he began his initial studies on tilapia sex reversal process for his doctoral dissertation at Auburn University in the US in early 1970s and later continued the work at CLSU.
In the 1980s, Guerrero and his wife Luzviminda, formed a research and development company for the commercial production of tilapia sex reversal feed for easy application of the technology by fish farmers.
With the technology, fish farmers produced high yields of fast-growing large-sized all-male tilapia.
Meanwhile, Abesamis, a businessman who was a graduate in Bachelor of Science in Agriculture at the University of the Philippines, was first to introduce fish pen for bangus production in Dagupan City and many growers copied his system.
Being a wide reader, he discovered in 1995 that salmon and bangus have the same characteristics and since salmon are widely cultured in Norway, he went there to study and observe the salmon production technology.
In Norway, he observed that salmon are mass produced in the ocean through the use of fish cages made of polyurethane materials.
From there, he imported fish cage materials used for salmon culture in Norway to the Philippines for the purpose of mass producing bangus.
This technology was so successful that he was recognized by the Association of Fish Producers in the Philippines for his invaluable contribution in fish production and steering the fisheries industry towards sustainable growth and development. (PNA)