Outstanding citizens, who are champions in the conservation and protection of Tañon Strait Protected Seascape, were honored and awarded in the 1st Ocean Heroes Award in the Philippines on June 9 at Cebu Parklane Hotel.
Oceana Philippines, in collaboration with the Department of Natural Resources (DENR) and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), seeks to honor ordinary citizens who have made extraordinary efforts for ocean conservation.
According to Oceana, there is an increase in the number of ordinary people whose vocation is to protect and conserve the environment. They go the extra mile by actively participating in different programs and by overseeing implementation of environmental policies.
From 30 nominees representing the provinces of Cebu and Negros, the number was trimmed to 11 after the elimination process then to the final four (4) awardees.
Finalists each received a plaque and monitoring kits while the four awardees received additional P50,000 cash prize.
Vice President of Oceana Philippines, Atty. Gloria Ramos said the recognition activity is more than just putting the spotlight on the people who gave their lives for their advocacies but also to inspire more heroes to come out.
Our everyday heroes
The famous verse goes, “You can’t keep a good man down” is appropriate for Norlan Pagal, a passionate advocate on wheelchair. Pagal was recognized as one of the four Ocean Heroes in the 1st Ocean Heroes Award in the Philippines.
For 13 years now, Pagal has been an impassioned advocate of fishery laws in Anapog, San Remigio. He was a former seaborne patrol chief, an active member of BantayDagat, and currently the president of Anapog Fishermen Organization.
He consistently oversees the community’s sanctuary and rebukes fishermen who are into illegal practice of fishing. Pagal said the ocean is his life which is also the main source of his family’s living.
He’s been physically attacked many times because of his advocacy. However, the most unfortunate incident happened last October 24, 2015 when he was shot at,hitting his spine, and affected his ability to walk.
“Dili ta dapat mahadlok sa mga tawo. Ang dapat natong kahadlokan ang kaugmaon sa mga mo sunod nga henerasyon nga dili makasinati sa kanindot ug kaabunda sa atong kadagatan,” said Pagal.
Pagal added that nobody can ever stop him from advocating and enforcing environmental law against illegal fishing, except the Lord.
The selfless leader committed to give half of the P50,000 cash prize he received to members of their organization.“Alang kini sa akong mga kauban nga naning kamot pud sa ilang pagpanagat, siguro ipalit ni og mga pukot..”, he added.
Even if he is wheelchair bound, he continues to protect and keep an eye on the illegal activities in their area. According to Norlan’s wife, Elma, he would use his telescope to monit the community’s sanctuary.
Pagal added that the recognition and the cash prize was the last thing on his mind but hopes this will inspire more advocates in the province like him.
One of the finalists, Celso Busogon, also from San Remigio, found a stable source of living because of his advocacy on mangroves.
The devastation caused by typhoon Yolanda in 2013 opened his eye to the need of conserving nature’s resources. At present, Busogon is a supplier of seedlings for the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO)..
Meanwhile, other awardees from Negros Island Region were Roberto Quigay, Oliver Dayupay, and one from the women’s sector, Vida Raunillo.
Unfortunately, Oliver Dayupay was not around to receive his award.
He passed way two weeks ago while doing his job, protecting and preserving the environment.
Other finalists were Melba delaCerna, CelsoCataquez, Juan Oberes, George Llanera, Jonathan Allere, and Alfredo Cotchoco.
The panel of judges were Director Mundita Lim of DENR-Biodiversity Management Bureau, Asst. Director Benjamin Tabios of Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), and Dr. Cecilia Conaco, Professor of Psychology, UP.