The Municipality of Del Carmen in Siargao Island was recently named Caraga Region’s grand winner in the Malinis and Masaganang Karagatan (MMK) program of the Department of Agriculture -Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources which recognizes the most outstanding coastal communities across the archipelago.
Situated off the mainland of Surigao Del Norte province, the town was awarded for its exemplary efforts in protecting and conserving their marine environment set by the BFAR.
The MMK program has five general criteria, which include absence of illegal fishing, observance of closed fishing season, establishment of marine protected areas, clean coastal waters without domestic and industrial wastes, and effective mangrove protection and rehabilitation program.
A perennial recipient of local government awards, which include the 2018 Galing Pook Public Service Innovation, the municipality will qualify for the national selection of the top winners of the MMK this November.
According to Del Carmen vice-mayor Alfredo Coro II, the town’s healthy environment was key in their economic sustainability during the imposition of the lockdown in the early months of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The investments in the protection of the marine protected areas and mangrove forest gave us enough fish to feed the many despite a sudden increase in fisherfolks and resulting in lowering of the cost of fisheries for the consuming public,” he said.
He noted that due to the displacement of workers from other sectors, its marginal fishermen increased by 1,500, which its ecosystem was able to absorb.
“Protection of our mountains and watershed also allowed good source of water for irrigation which when several people started to grow their food, was enough to support the farms. The non-disturbance of the forest trees also attracted good rain that was enough to toil our farms,” he added.
Coro said that as a result of the pandemic, they are now focused on the role of fisherfolk as frontliners for food security and the importance of farming in sustaining community livelihood.
The vice-mayor noted that the municipal government has encouraged people to return to farming, provided seeds, and buys harvest to supply to the community.
He expressed hope that locals will continue farming and fishing, even if tourism activities resume in Siargao, which has been perennially adjudged by Conde Nast as among the world’s best islands.
Del Carmen takes pride in its 4,000-hectare contiguous mangrove forest which is the biggest in the archipelago, which has helped it achieve an outstanding coastal ecosystem.
The habitat of a rare saltwater crocodile specie crocodylus porosus, this ecosystem helps maintain the island’s ecological balance by providing rich breeding grounds to aquatic life.
The town is also sought-after for Sugba Lagoon, a saltwater body of water tucked inside limestone cliffs.
The municipal government is a partner of Shore It Up, the multi-awarded corporate social responsibility program of the Metro Pacific Investment Corp., which seeks to establish a nationwide network of local governments for the conservation of marine and coastal ecosystems.
Under a local version called Siargao It Up, it has undertaken underwater cleanup by Metro Pacific volunteer scuba divers, Run for the Mangroves International Marathon, strengthening of the Bantay Dagat units, Junior Environmental Scouts for elementary students, and ecotourism tours around the mangrove forest and Sugba Lagoon, among others.The town also hosts the Mangrove Propagation and Information Center, the first of its kind in southern Philippines, which promotes an integrated community approach on education, mangrove reforestation, sustainable tourism, and livelihood.