Press Release
September 2, 2021

Villar Congratulates Fisherman Recipient of The Ramon Magsaysay Award

Senator Cynthia Villar, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food, is extending her congratulations to Filipino fisherman Roberto "Ka Dodoy" Ballon of Zamboanga Sibugay who was chosen as one of the recipients of The Ramon Magsaysay Award.

Ballon is recognized for "his inspiring determination in leading his fellow fisherfolk to revive a dying fishing industry by creating a sustainable marine environment for this generation and generations to come, and his shining example of how everyday acts of heroism can truly be extraordinary and transformative."

In 1986, Ballon and 30 other small scale fishermen started Kapunungan sa Gamay nga Mangingisda sa Concepcion. The association decided to restore mangrove forests in Kabalasan town where rampant fishpond conversion and abandonment of fishponds when the business collapsed had destroyed the mangrove forests.

With government backing, Ballon and his fellow fisherfolks were able to transform abandoned fish ponds into 500 hectares of healthy mangrove forests, which also preserve the coastal environment.

"Ka Dodoy serves as an inspiration and role model to fisherfolks and all Filipinos that genuine concern for other's welfare and for the environment combined with a determination to do something is not only personally rewarding but will be rewarded and recognized as well, " said Villar.

Ballon's efforts led to improvement in fish catch: from only 1.5 kilograms in an eight-hour fishing trip to as much as 7 kilograms in three to five hours of fishing. This also helped improve the quality of life of fishermen.

Villar cites, "There are really huge benefits in protecting mangroves forests. Mangroves are not only the best protection against storm surges particularly in coastal communities. They also serve as nesting grounds of fishes, it is where they lay eggs. So fish catch really improves when mangroves are protected."

Villar herself who is the current chairperson of the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources is also a staunch advocate of mangroves planting and protection. One of her environmental programs is at the Las Piñas-Parañaque Wetland Park (formerly LPPCHEA), which has a 36-hectare mangrove forest with 11 mangrove species.

In a video message, Ballon dedicated his award to his fellow fisherfolk: "I dedicate this to all fishermen, especially small fishermen across the Philippines. Because of this, let us keep improving and strengthening our programs".

The Board of Trustees of The Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation (RMAF) announced this year's choices composed of four individuals and one organization during a virtual event held on August 31. Ballon was the lone Filipino among this year's awardees.

The Ramon Magsaysay Award is Asia's equivalent to the Nobel Prize. It is given to individuals or organizations in Asia who manifest the "same selfless service and transformative influence that ruled the life" of late President Ramon Magsaysay. It is Asia's premier prize and highest honor.

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