Davao's Badjao fisherfolk proving Bucana is not just a warzone

Fishing is almost effortless for Carleo  D. Arquillano, Purok Leader of St. John in Bucana and his fellow fishrfolk who, with the help of non-government organization Mindanao Land (MinLand) and the Bureau of Fish and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), erected early this month a 14-feet deep fish coral known locally as “bungsod”, a few meters away from the shoreline.  Made of bamboo, net and nylon, the bungsod traps the fish that dare to venture near the municipal waters.
 
“Our first harvest yielded around 50 kilos of herring (tamban), slipmouth fish and bigeye trevally,” Arquillano said.  For the past two days’ harvest, they were able to raise P3,000 which will go to the coffers of the DAPSA Fisherfolk Association. The wives of their members sell the fish to the nearby areas and if there is a surplus, it is sold to the traders who bring it to the market.

Bgy. Bucana has gained notoriety in the city because of its reputation as a lair of illegal drug peddlers.  However, Arquillano said they are trying to change this by organizing volunteers to monitor and dissuade drug users and dealers in the area. 
The effort seems to be paying off, he said, but they are still faced with the problem of poverty which they hope to remedy through the establishment of various livelihood programs in the barangays such as fishing. 

The area is considered one of the success stories of MinLand which identified the Badjaos in the area for their community governance and disaster resiliency project. Of the almost 2,837 purok population with 900 households, there is an estimated 70 Badjao households.  

“A study by the city show that the number one hazard faced by the city is flooding and the Davao River facing Bucana is one of the coastal communities usually affected by flooding,” Miraflor Austria, MinLand Urban-Project Team Leader said. Out of the seven watersheds in the city, the Davao River has been identified as the most critical.

Austria said the Badjaos immediately asked for a banga so they can fish but MinLand encouraged them to shift to other methods of fishing and to adopt new fishing technologies since “they have been used to the pana-pana method which may no longer be feasible now given climate change and the reduced marine resources.” 

“We always experience flooding here not only when there are typhoons but even during monsoons,” said Francesso Bantayan, a trisikad driver who has lived in the area for most of his life. 

While the seasonal reverses of the wind can be scary and inconvenient for the community, he said they have become accustomed to this way of life. He said he would grab any offer of relocation but said it has to be where they can continue with their livelihood. 

The community tried to plant mangroves along the shoreline to protect them from monsoons and typhoons but almost all the trees they planted were wiped out by strong winds and the waves which came with sand due to the siltation in the area. 
“MidLand formed a group of Badjaos and gave them an incentive to plant the mangroves which we provided,” said Milagros Nakahara, Environmental Management Specialist of the City Environment and Natural Resources Office.

 Nakahara said they planted one hectare with mangroves in November 2014 but only survived for a year. Only one mangrove has been left standing and this too is in danger because the informal settlers have erected structures near the tree.  

Jose Longno of the City Fishery Office said rehabilitation of the mangroves is out of the question because the area is not really feasible for planting mangroves. He suggested the planting of Malibago trees which have been existing in the area for years since it seems to be the most resilient tree given the nature of the location. 

“We also need to declare the area as a fish landing area so that we can protect it from future claimants and from informal settlers,” Punong Barangay Rolando Trajera said. There is also a need to delineate the area and to limit the number of bungsod considering that other people would want to take advantage of the fish catch.

BFAR XI Regional Director Fatma idris said the increasing fish population in the area shows that the yearly declaration of the Closed Season for Pelagic Fishes in the Davao Gulf from June to August is very effective. Davao City ordinance No. 093-08, also known as the Fisheries Code of Davao City, already prohibits the “Catching or selling of Juvenile Fishery Species or Gravid Spawners” even without the Closed Season. Open fishing season in the region has been declared for the months of September to May.

The Closed Season in the Davao Gulf has been implemented only for the past twoyears but has reportedly increased the fish catch in the region by 26% from September to December in 2014 compared to the same period last year. BFAR data shows that the fish catch of the municipal fisherfolk versus the commercial fishers has increased from 25-75 percent prior to the implementation of the Closed Fishing Season to 34-66 percent after the Closed Season.

BFAR National Director Asis Perez said an increase in the country’s fish catch can be expected with the implementation of Republic Act 10654 or the Amended Fisheries Code of the Philippines which became effective on October 10, 2015. Mr. Perez said the implementation of the Amended Fisheries Code will also strengthen the country's fight against Illegal, Unreported and Uncontrolled Fishing (IUUF).


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