The famous Ramon Magsaysay award committee announced on Tuesday that a Filipino fisherman and community environmentalist who helped improve fish harvest in his hamlet on the Zamboanga peninsula is among this year’s recipients.
An American humanitarian worker, a Bangladeshi doctor who helped develop vaccines, a Pakistani social entrepreneur who helped the poor get access to microfinance, and an independent media organization from Indonesia that does investigative reporting and documentary filmmaking were also cited for the award, Asia’s equivalent of the Nobel Prize.
Roberto Ballon, a 53-year-old head of the Kapunungan sa Gagmay ng Mangingisda, or a group of small fishermen, in Kabasalan town, Zamboanga Sibugay, was recognized for “his inspiring determination in leading his fellow fisherfolk to revive a dying fishing industry by creating a sustainable marine environment for this generation and generations to come, and his shining example of how everyday acts can make a difference.”
Ka Dodoy, as he was affectionately known in the community, persisted in uniting artisanal fisherman in Barangay Concepcion to improve their livelihoods through mangrove regeneration along the coast.
Ka Dodoy’s group began with 50 hectares in 1994 and grew it to 500 hectares in two decades, transforming what was once a desert of abandoned fishponds into an expanse of lush mangrove forests rich in marine and terrestrial species.
Fish catch has increased considerably, from 1.5 kilogram every eight-hour fishing excursion to as much as 7.0 kg in three to five hours of fishing.
According to the Ramon Magsaysay Award committee, the fishermen’s quality of life has improved as seen by their capacity to purchase a boat engine or simple domestic items and send their children to school.
Ka Dodoy’s organization also secured collaborations with development institutions for livelihood and social entrepreneurial projects like as oyster production, shell and crab culture, and seaweed farming.
Kabasalan is presently known as the province’s seafood hub and an ecotourism destination on the Zamboanga peninsula.
“Iniaalay natin sa mga kasamang mangingisda lalong-lalo na sa mga maliliit na mangingisda sa Pilipinas…. After the presentation of the winners of this year’s edition of the award, Ballon stated, “Mas lalong makilala at suportahan ang ating programa bilang maliliit na mangingisda sa Pilipinas.”
The other winners are as follows:
Muhammad Amjad Saqib of Pakistan for his work in social entrepreneurship.
Bangladeshi Firdausi Qadri for her dedication to vaccine development, which has saved millions of lives; American Steven Muncy for extending humanitarian and peace-building efforts across borders; and Indonesian media organization Watchdoc Indonesia for emerging leadership and using journalism and filmmaking to give people a voice.
The awardees were revealed on Tuesday, the late President Ramon Magsaysay’s birthday, and the prizes will be presented in November.
Because of the pandemic, no awards were given out last year. The Ramon Magsaysay Award committee has also cancelled the awards ceremonies twice in the past: in 1970 during a global financial crisis and in 1990 during a devastating earthquake in Luzon.
The Ramon Magsaysay Award, established in 1958, is Asia’s greatest prize and highest honor. It honors the memory and leadership example of the late and beloved Filipino leader, after whom the award is named, and is given each year to individuals or organizations in Asia who demonstrate the same selfless service and transformative influence that ruled the late and beloved Filipino leader’s life.
The committee said the 2021 Magsaysay Awardees as “one in their dedication to build solutions to crucial and complicated issues in their societies.”
The winners of this year’s Magsaysay Award will each get a certificate, a medallion carrying the late President’s portrait, and a monetary prize.