Environmental Stewardship in Masbate’s Marine Ecosystem
Aroroy, Masbate -- Fisherfolks of Masbate with Reef Balls - Jocel R. Regala, Fernando Bete, Jolly N. Tumambac and Angel C. Marcaida, with Rene Dalaygon of Filminera Resources Corporation. (Photo by Marcelle P. Villegas)
By: Marcelle P. Villegas
The protection of the marine ecosystem in Masbate is one of the priorities of Filminera Resources Corporation (FRC) in cooperation with the local government in Aroroy, Masbate. From our previous article, we explored the story behind their mangrove planting project. This time, let us talk about the coral reef in this province.
The coral reef is an essential part of any marine ecosystem as it helps sustain life underwater. In order to guard the aquatic resources of Aroroy, the mayor wants more coastal resource management guards who shall protect the 129-hectare Colorada Marine Protected Area (CMPA) off the coast of Barangay Tigbao. This marine sanctuary area was established by FRC and the Aroroy LGU. 
The CMPA is a partnership of Masbate Gold Project (MGP), local government of Aroroy, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) Region 5, and Barangay Tigbao. This was established in 2017 through Municipal Ordinance No. 031-2017.
Mr Darwin John C. Raymundo, Senior Biodiversity Officer of FRC, further explained that the CMPA has the following features: No-take, no-access area (exception of boat traffic), regular patrolling by wardens, coral reef monitoring surveys, and has a technical working group who formulates management plans. CMPA is located at Barangay Tigbao. 
Other problems addressed by the mayor of Aroroy are dynamite fishing and large-scale commercial fishing (usually with the use of destructive trawlers).  According to Mr Raymundo, a few years ago, some baseline environmental studies were conducted at Port Barrera that revealed less than 12% live coral cover. This is a result of decades of destructive fishing practices such as dynamite fishing and cyanide fishing.
To address this problem, the Coral Reef Rehabilitation Project was launched, a partnership between MGP and Aroroy LGU. They focus on resource management and capability building. The project aims to enhance livelihood opportunities for Port Barrera, establishment and protection of a marine protected area (MPA), and rehabilitation of degraded coral reefs. 
Phil. Gold Processing and Refining Corp. (PGPRC) helped in the rehabilitation of the coral reefs in Port Barrera through the Reef Ball Project. A Reef Ball is an environment-friendly and sustainable method of coral reef regeneration.  It is a patented artificial reef module that mimics the natural reef patterns. These are special concrete structures with holes for fish to swim through. In a Reef Ball, coral buds are implanted by divers (hired by the mines) where the coral buds will eventually proliferate and multiply.
As of April 2019, they deployed 1,642 Reef Balls at the CMPA which covers 129 hectares.  PGPRC is the only company in the Philippines that dispatches Reef Balls for their Corporate Social Responsibility. Brgy. Tigbao locals were hired to make the Reef Balls within the mine site. Some of the MPA wardens were former dynamite fishermen.  They now guard the MPA from fishing and other destructive activities. 
Philippine Resources Journal interviewed some fisherfolks who used to engage in dynamite fishing. They said that it was not an easy transition for them. Although they have realised the hard way that using dynamite in fishing is not only illegal, but is also dangerous. Thus, leaving that old habit is indeed a smart move. In their new life as guardians of the sea, patrolling the waters 24/7 is a risky work scenario, especially at early dawn when most violators are active. However, for them, their commitment in protecting the environment is strong because they know that they are doing the right thing. They are grateful to be given this second chance.
Filminera Resources Corporation and Phil. Gold Processing and Refining Corp. are committed in protecting the marine environment in Aroroy. The overall results of their efforts are even greater. In record time, all their hard work, along with fisherfolks, locals and Aroroy LGU gave rise to improved biodiversity, restored marine ecosystem and community empowerment in Aroroy, Masbate.
 Filminera Resources Corporation corporate brochure 2019
 Presentation report of Mr Darwin John C. Raymundo (Senior Biodiversity Officer, Filminera Resources Corporation) during an interview by Marcelle P. Villegas. (23 May 2019).
 Mines and Geosciences Bureau Regional Office No.V (17 April 2019). "Reef Ball Project: A Show Case of Concern for the Environment". Retrieved from http://region5.mgb.gov.ph/articles/185-reef-ball-project-a-show-case-of-concern-for-the-environment
Thank you to Mr Darwin John C. Raymundo (Senior Biodiversity Officer) and ComRel Dept. of Filminera Resources Corporation.