Three municipalities from Luzon and Visayas were awarded as outstanding coastal communities by the Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (DA-BFAR) during the Malinis at Masaganang Karagatan (MMK) 2020 awarding ceremony and the Month of the Ocean Celebration on Tuesday, May 31, in Pasay City.

Conferred by DA Undersecretary for Agri-industrialization and for Fisheries Cheryl Marie Natividad-Caballero and BFAR National Director Eduardo B. Gongona, the municipality of Prieto Diaz in Sorsogon was declared grand winner and shall receive P30 million worth of fisheries livelihood projects. The second place was given to Hinunangan municipality in Southern Leyte and the third place was Libertad, Antique which will receive P18 million and P10 million worth of fisheries livelihood projects, respectively. The three municipalities received plaques of recognition and trophies as well.

The MMK is the national search for the country’s outstanding coastal communities recognizing their exemplary initiatives and accomplishment in coastal and fisheries resource management and documenting best practices and strategies of these outstanding municipalities. The 2020 MMK awarding ceremony was only conducted this year due to the restrictions of COVID-19 pandemic.

The three winning municipalities were selected from five regional winners that includes Mahinog, Camiguin and Del Carmen, Surigao del Norte, which were hailed out of 50 nominated coastal municipalities.

“Kung nasaan po tayo ay nakasalalay sa tamang pag-harness natin ng mga resources na ito ay nakasalalay sa polisiya at implementasyon ng ating local government units and this MMK is a very important mechanism to take cognizance of the contribution of local government units,” DA Undersecretary Natividad-Caballero said.

Participating coastal communities were evaluated according to the following criteria: (1) no illegal fishing; (2) observance of closed fishing season; (3) declared Marine Protected Areas; (4) clean, coastal waters without any garbage or industrial effluence flowing to the sea; and (5) effective mangrove protection and rehabilitation program.

“Mahalagang masugpo ang iligal, mapinsala, at walang habas na pangingisda. Marapat ding bigyang solusyon ang lumalalang polusyon at pagkasira ng mangrove areas. Ito ang layunin ng programang Malinis at Masaganang Karagatan,” Secretary Dar said in a video message.

The municipality of Prieto Diaz exhibited an exceptional participatory process in its law enforcement as it achieved a near zero case of illegal and destructive fishing since 2017. Through its strengthened avenues for community participation, the municipality established high social acceptability for projects aimed at protecting and conserving its natural resources.

The Hinunangan municipality, meanwhile, is home to four marine protected areas, all of which have shown increased fish diversity and seagrass cover through their consistent protection. The municipality enforces a three-month closed fishing season for danggit, a major fishery resource in the town, which resulted in its sustained production since 2017.

Lastly, the municipality of Libertad has maintained a well-protected and healthy sea through its comprehensive municipal fishery program. It is steward to nine marine protected areas and enforces a closed fishing season for fish fry. It also implements a solid waste management program which contributes to the protection of its waters against pollution and degradation of its coastal resources.

“Since its inception in 2016, MMK has always aimed to promote fisheries protection and conservation, highlighting the significance of sustainably managing our fisheries and aquatic resources, and promoting stakeholder engagement to the cause of resource protection and conservation,” BFAR Director Gongona said.

The 2021 MMK winners are set to be announced in September this year during the celebration of the 59th Fish Conservation Week and the Maritime and Archipelagic Nation Awareness Month (MANA Mo).