Celebrating Fish Conservation Week and Awards for Local Government Leaders.(Opinion &Amp; Editorial)

Article excerpt

THIS week, from October 14 to 18, the country celebrates Fish Conservation Week. But it has been overshadowed by several other dramatic events. There was the 14th Asian Games in Busan, South Korea, where our Filipino athletes came back with three gold, seven silver, and 16 bronze medals and with equestrienne Mikee Cojuangco doing the country proud by galloping away with a gold. Not bad, they say when compared to the 1994 Hiroshima Asiad where we won only three gold, two silver, and eight bronze awards.

Another is the bombing in the heart of the tourist belt in Bali, the Asian paradise island. This act of terrorism which killed close to 190 people and wounded hundreds sent a chilling message throughout the world - that everyone, every country is vulnerable to terrorist attacks. Despite, the gravity of implications of political and economic events here and abroad, our news programs both on broadcast and print media are still filled with trivia.

While we should be concerned with survival issues and foreign policies, many commentators like to focus on private lives of celebrities such as the "plenty" response of our president when asked about her sex life. An occasion where there could have been a more in-depth discussion of world events resulted in the highlighting of a naughty remark which was triggered off by an irresponsible question. It is not surprising that events which are critical to our survival such as World Food Day and the protection of our deteriorating fisheries resources do not get the attention they deserve. But they should, since food security and employment are supposed to be the priority goals of our government.

To instill the importance of these concerns into people's consciousness would perhaps require several measures. One is to get agencies concerned to discover ways of presenting the stories of development so that they would attract space and airtime. It is not an easy task as most often, media are wary of government initiatives which are regarded as propaganda. The use of case studies - letting the people relate their struggle - from dependency to self-reliance and humanizing and dramatizing the oftentimes dull statistics and letting people relate experiences that tug the heart, so to speak, are some strategies.

The Fisheries Resources Management Project (FRMP) has come up with several halfhour videos which focus on some success stories where the communities tell their stories of how they have enhanced their fisheries resources, apprehended illegal fishers, initiated livelihood projects, and increased their earnings and savings through cooperatives and quasi-banks. Although not as dramatic as we would have wanted, they provide government and funding agencies enough hope that projects like this can make a difference in their lives.

This project of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources which has been ongoing for the past four years is supported with funds from the Government, the Asian Development Bank and the Japan Bank for International Cooperation. There are now many tangible results of activities in resource management, income diversification and capacity building which are being implemented in ten regions. Because of effective and participatory coastal resource management planning, resource enhancement projects such as mangroves, artificial reefs, seagrasses and law enforcement programs (Bantay Dagat) have been established and strengthened and are yielding quite satisfactory results. But existing fisheries resources which have deteriorated over the years are not adequate to sustain the growing population. Thus, alternative livelihood enterprises - bangus hatcheries, seaweeds, fish cages, and fish processing have been set up in all the ten regions. These are joint initiatives by the Department of Agriculture-BFAR, industry investors, the community and local government.

In fact, the centerpiece in many of the development efforts of the governors and mayors who were finalists in the Local Government Leadership Award is their success story in coastal resource management, law enforcement in conserving fisheries resources, and the generation of employment through community enterprises. …