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EDITORIAL: Alternatives
The Dying Macajalar Bay
Listen to Mindanao

Saturday, June 29, 2002
The Dying Macajalar Bay
By Orlan R. Ravanera

EVERY time I see Macajalar Bay, I remember lines of a beautiful poem which begins with, "Rage, rage, rage against the dying of the light . . ." Deep inside I feel the pain and the anger not because of the "dying of the light" but in the impending death of an ecosystem, the natural world of Macajalar Bay whose beauty is both awesome and humbling.

As the bay goes, so is the life of the ecological people, the thousands of fishers and their families, who have been dependent on its natural wealth for food and livelihood.

The bay is not only a vital food producer, very rich in marine biodiversity and source of livelihood.

It is also a venue for education, recreation and aesthetics and a living and breathing space for human and for wildlife.

The grandeur, that is Macajalar Bay, speaks well for itself! But that same grandeur is now fast disappearing as it undergoes progressive state of impairment and with it, the marginalization of the coastal populace. Unlike before when fish would literally jump into their "banca", fish now can hardly be caught.

Why? What are the fatal blows causing the death of this once mighty ecosystem?

The bay has been treated as a waste pit. First is industrial pollution. Chemical wastes from industries and factories are dumped in the bay.

These wastes poison sea life and even entered food chains. Another silent killers are the chemical fertilizers and insecticides heavily used in surrounding plantations and farms particularly in Bukidnon.

These non-biodegradable, petroleum-based agricultural inputs are washed from soil into rivers and into the sea.

Many of our fisherfolk can attest to the fact that when it rains, many fish float dead in the rivers and in the sea. Worse, we strongly suspect that the water table may already be contaminated by these chemicals.

In fact one scientist has written an article, "Drink Now, Die Later" as he fears that our drinking water may not be that safe anymore.

The bay is also a victim of soil erosion and siltation. What men do on land affects the life in the sea. Because trees were cut, soil has been eroding and washing into the river and then into the sea.

The eroded soil or silt has harmed sea life, coral reefs and cause fish and other organisms to die. Another serious souurce of siltation are on-going mining operations in Upper Iponan..

Our small fishers and their families have been painfully witnessing the fading away of the bay's fisheries and aquatic resources.

Whatever is left is being wantonly raked by big commercial fishing boats (CFBs) whose millionaire-owners have ties with powers-that-be!

Until now, these CFBs remain unchecked even if their nightly rakings in the prohibited municipal waters are known to government agencies mandated to enforce fishery laws.

The fishing communities have their own sad stories to tell on why these government law enforcement agencies are inutile in enforcing the laws.

They liken laws to spider's web where only the weak are caught but the strong and influential can easily pass their way through.

Our small fisherfolk and their families have been painfully witnessing the fading away of the bay's fisheries and aquatic resources.

They vehemently lament the massive ecological degradation as it deprives them of their legitimate livelihood.

Such also creates fish shortage in Cagayan de Oro City which presently imports 80% of its fish supply from far flung coastal provinces.

Indeed, how tragic it is for a family so near a once rich fishing ground to find its children dying of malnutrition.

As a tribute to Macajalar Bay, I dedicate this simple poem:

Will the bay which reigns to give life Be now devoid of breath? It has always been like a mother to us, As we bountifully reaped its blessings.

Fishing lies at the heart of our culture, The fisherfolk its careful guardians.

The bay is now facing a crisis,

Representing a danger to coastal communities.

Soon we will see a time when the unavoidable

Reality of hunger will stalk the earth again.

Then how heavily will the meaning of a single fish

Weigh in our human heart!

Prays sons and daughters of the Earth

That the Bay be restored to health!

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