HAGONOY, Bulacan – Declining biodiversity in this coastal town has alarmed both officials and residents alike.
Plant species that used to thrive along rivers and creeks and along the coast of Manila Bay, and a number of fish species that fishermen used to catch in rivers and in the open seas have disappeared.
Impact of such disappearance, they said, are now felt by households that are dependent on fish catch for livelihood and food.
Governor Wilhelmino Alvarado recounted that in his younger days, the riverbanks of the town were filled with different species of plants that were home to insects and a sanctuary for different fish species.
“Dati maraming mga kulasi, sasahan, diliwaryo, bakawan at palapat sa baybayin ng ilog at maging sa dagat,” said Alvarado who served as mayor of this town from 1986 to 1998.
He lamented that areas where plant species used to grow were replaced by concrete structures like houses.
Alvarado added that the quality of the river water has changed in the last 20 years.
This was affirmed by former Bulacan Board Member Patrocinio Laderas who, like Alvarado, was involved in fishpond operations before entering politics.
“Not only plant species are disappearing in a dizzying phase, we are also losing marine species to water pollution,” Laderas said.
As a former fishpond operator, he said that seasonal harvest in recent years has dropped by about 90 percent compared to harvest 20 years ago.
Laderas warned that unless local government units start to make a move today, there will be nothing left in the years to come.
This fear is shared by fishermen like Rodolfo Cabangis who for more than 30 years has braved the waters of Manila Bay.
Cabangis said that local fishermen’s earnings from catch today is not even enough to send their children to school because of the dearth of fish in said bay.
He said that 30 years ago, they fished only along the coastline of Manila Bay in Bulacan.
Today, however, fishermen here now face the risks of going near or beyond Corregidor Island, where once his neighbors drowned when hit by huge waves.
“Kahit sa palengke wala ka nang mabibiling alugasin, pati yung mga sapsap, alimasag at dalagang bukid madalang na,” he said referring to fish caught in the open sea.
Cabangis also noted that fish sold every day in public markets here are largely sourced from fishponds, adding that pollution and over fishing has led to the present decline in fish catch which results to higher price of this food commodity. Dino Balabo