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The Online Magazine for Sustainable Seas
July, 1998 Vol. 1 No. 7

Iloilo’s Banate Bay:
Back to Life

The fish are back in Iloilo's once polluted and depleted Banate Bay, thanks to efforts by local communities to take better care of their
"source of life"







or generations, Banate Bay, about 54 kms from Iloilo City, teemed with life – sardines, mackerels and angel wing shells. Fishers roamed its 14,000-hectare expanse of common fishing grounds, rarely going home disappointed. Those who lived along the coastal towns of Anilao, Banate and Barotac Nuevo, in particular, relied on the Bay’s bounties as their "source of life."

But commercial fishing fleets soon began to operate in the Bay. To compete, local fishers resorted to using home-made explosives and cyanide, killing fish, destroying marine habitats, and eventually exhausting the Bay. According to University of the Philippines researchers Flor Lacanilao and Pepito Fernandez, municipal catch in the area dropped from 1.2 million tons in 1991 to just 0.9 tons in 1996.

It was at this time when two government officials organized a group that would help save the Bay. The Banate Bay Resource Management Council Inc. (BBRMCI), a community-based group, was organized in 1996 by Mayor Ramon Antiojo of Anilao and Iloilo board member Pablito Araneta. It had 19 regular members, representing the three towns, the province and non-governmental organizations. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the Department of Public Works and Highways, the University of the Philippines in the Visayas, the Iloilo State College of Fisheries and the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center-Aquaculture Department provided technical support and, with P100,000 as seed money from each town, BBRMCI set to work.

When the conservation work started, only a few clumps of mangroves were standing in the Bay. A survey by DENR had identified some 1,000 hectares in the Bay as possible areas for mangrove reforestation. Acting on this information, BBRMCI started planting mangroves on two hectares in Talokgangan, a barangay in Banate, and to put up mangrove nurseries that produced some 6,000 mangrove seedlings. In addition, the municipal councils of Barotac Nuevo and Anilao set aside as fish sanctuaries certain areas where seagrass grew. Also, some coral reef areas were declared off-limits to fishing, among them the 25-hectare Hibotkan Rock fish santuary in Banate town. Angel wing shells, locally known as diwal, were cultivated in a five-hectare tidal flat in Barotac Nuevo to ease the pressure on other areas where overharvesting and pollution had depleted the diwal population. Fish wardens were deputized to go after illegal fishers. Fishers and youth organizations and cooperatives were organized, and local resource management councils were established.

Today, local communities are reaping the rewards of giving the Bay better care. Fishers, using only hook and line, can catch enough fish to feed their families, and more to sell in the market. And, in mid-June this year, the Banate Bay Project was named by the Asian Institute of Management and the Local Government Academy’s Galing Pook Awards as one of 10 outstanding "local governance innovations" of the province of Iloilo and one of 10 outstanding projects nationwide, the only coastal resource management project among 17 Galing Pook finalists.



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