AT ANY interview, Mayor Alfredo Coro II of Del Carmen, Siargao will always say that his municipality has the largest contiguous mangrove in the Philippines.
“Contiguous” meaning that the clusters of mangroves are attached to each other making it appear from the distance like swaying verdant islands.
But what Mayor Coro is not saying is how his leadership in this quiet town has transformed Del Carmen from nearly being the “mangrove-cutting capital” in the Philippines to this 6,000 hectare haven for marine life including crocodiles.
Del Carmen, a municipality on Siargao Island with an estimated population of 19,768 people residing in its 20 barangays. The locals make their money from farming, tourism, and fishing.
Around 1,900 fishing households depend primarily on Del Carmen’s marine resources to generate income. Its municipal waters span 44,000 hectares, including 6,000 hectares of mangrove forest and extensive coral reefs on the coast.
Mayor Coro is not a fisher. While pursuing a degree in Computer Science in UPLB, he maintains that he was a “hardcore” mountaineer and eventually an IT-guy working for an international firm in Japan. In 2010, he was lured into politics by his relatives (Matugas) and Coro realized he could apply his meticulous IT training in improving his municipality. The first thing that he saw was the unsustainable use of their waters and low survival of juvenile fish leading to declining marine catch.
As Coro is not the “quiet and timid” computer guy, his outgoing manner opened insights into what ailed the community of fishers. This were (of course) poverty and the lack of recognition and benefits. Thus, Coro partnered with Rare-Philippines who launched the Pride Campaign in Del Carmen thereby increasing fishing boat registration, use of proper fishing gear, encouraged the creation of fish sanctuaries, strengthened marine protected areas, and encouraged the wives of the fishers to be part of a savings club. Curbing illegal fishing was life threatening to the mayor and his point persons but with more “iligalistas” becoming Bantay Dagats and eco-tour guides, Del Carmen has buttressed its battle to protect its “bakhawan” (mangrove), community and livelihood.
In 2018, Del Carmen has increased its near-shore fish catch by 10 percent and has been supplying daily fresh catch to the tourist-haven municipality of General Luna. Its lush mangroves is not just luring tourists but also huge schools of fish and other marine life that it will always be Fish Forever in Del Carmen.