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Scubasureros: I’ll dive for you
July 25, 2023
OUR oceans have always been a formidable force. To the fishermen, on good days, the ocean feeds their families. To the tourists looking for a reprieve, the oceans are an escape. To the people of Toledo City, Cebu protecting and preserving the marine biodiversity in the coastal areas of the city is not just an afterthought but a must.
In 2022, diving enthusiasts from the local power plant operating in Toledo City, Therma Visayas Incorporated (TVI) under Aboitiz Power Corporation (AboitizPower) explored the depths of their surrounding waters. To their surprise and dismay, it was not only beautiful corals and marine life that greeted them, but plastic wastes scattered on the seafloor.
An earnest desire to make a difference led to the birth of Scubasurero, an AboitizPower and TVI- led initiative that enjoined local government and people's initiative to do clean-ups not only along the shoreline and surface of the waters but also the submerged coastal areas near the TVI facilities and the Bato Marine Sanctuary. Quite appropriately, the coined word “Scubasurero” is a portmanteau combining the words 'scuba diving' and 'basurero' or garbage collector.
Eugene Matin-aw, a 41-year-old father of four, made it clear: his job as a team leader of the Bantay Dagat seaborne patrol and the Scubasurero program has changed and strengthened his views on protecting the oceans and the marine sanctuary in Barangay Bato.
“Importante ni, kay kung wala ang marine sanctuary, mawad-an isda ang Toledo. Ang atong kadagatan mawala, kay ari mana sila mu-produce ang isda og mga sperm mga semilia, ari sa marine sanctuary, sa corals. Mao na’y makuha pud sa atong mananagat, kay og wala’y sanctuary wala nay isda, wala na’y managat,” Eugene shared.
(This is very important because, without the marine sanctuary, Toledo will lose all its fish. Our marine life will be gone since the fish reproduce in the sanctuary and lay eggs on the corals. That’s the same fish that our fishermen catch. Without the sanctuary, there won’t be any fish, and there will no longer be fishermen [in these areas].)
Being a Scubasurero, Eugene’s daily life is now connected to the oceans. Aside from protecting the marine sanctuary, the program has given him the opportunity to provide for his family. With the honorarium and the fish they often receive, Eugene said that being a Bantay Dagat and Scubasurero gave him the chance to do something for the environment and for his family at the same time.
Alwin Canonigo, head of the Bantay Dagat crew, said that in the early days of setting boundaries for the sanctuary, they received some kind of resistance from the people, with most of the complaints concerning no longer being allowed to collect seashells by the seashore. However, the people eventually realized the benefits.
“Ig-kadugay nakasabot sila na nindot kaayo na naay marine sanctuary kay ang isda dili mapuo. Karon bitaw ilang istorya nindot daghan na kaayong isda diri,” Alwin said.
(Eventually, they realized that it's good to have a marine sanctuary because the fish will not disappear completely. Now, they talk about the abundance of fish in the area.)
Meanwhile, for Vice-President and Facility head of TVI Noel Cabahug, diving deep and being part of the instigators of the program has given him a unique perspective on marine environment protection.
“I shared it with my son, na kini, mao ni atong i-maintain... This is ours. Without taking care of our environment, wala na ta. Wala na ta’y isda, wala na’y mahabilin nato nga isda,” Noel said, recalling the day when the coastal clean-up event happened.
I shared with my son, that this is what we have to maintain... This is ours. Without taking care of our environment, we will also be gone. The fish will be gone, nothing will be left,”)
TVI and AboitizPower’s program, along with local government action, is one of the best ways to help preserve the environment in Toledo City, shared Toledo City Agriculture Head Estrella Bargamento.
“With Scubasurero na mutabang, ingon ani mani siya. Ang dili mabuhat sa LGU, mahug sad na mahal-mahal, unya ang uban kay voluntary baya na. Mahug siya og tinabangay nga ang ilang passion mahimo siyang importante og makatabang sa constituents dinhi na ang Bato Marine Sanctuary magpabilin siya nga limpyo,” Estrella said.
(With Scubasurero helping, they get to augment the things that the LGU cannot do with the high costs, especially since most of the divers are volunteers. It ends up being a collaboration, with their passions aligned with helping the constituents in keeping the Bato Marine Sanctuary clean.)
She hopes that neighboring towns and cities, and even the whole country, would adopt similar programs and see its progress in Toledo City.
Marigold Lebumfacil, reputation and stakeholder management specialist of TVI, said that their brainchild project has led to a collection of around 2.09 tons of waste with all of the clean-ups that they have done. She has witnessed how the program has changed the behavior of the local communities, and the ripples the program has created.
“They are already very aware that plastics are very harmful to the oceans. So far, with our monthly coastal cleanups, very active sila in supporting, and they even bring their own brooms, sacks, for the coastal clean-up.” Marigold said.
“It’s not for us, it’s for our future generations. I have kids, personally, it’s good that we started this kind of activity because if we keep doing this, it’s not only us that will benefit from this,” she added.
For the people behind Scubasurero, these are their promises and vision for the future, the marine environment, and the people of Toledo City.
This article by Eiver Ky Villegas first appeared on Sunstar Cebu.
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