News and UpdatesIn the NewsForum celebrates Alcala’s life

Forum celebrates Alcala’s life


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Calls on youth to continue legacy


The Silliman University Angelo King Center for Research & Environmental Management celebrated the life of National Scientist Dr. Angel Alcala, and the establishment of the marine-protected areas in Apo Island and in Sumilon Island through a commemorative lecture by Dr. Garry Russ of James Cook University.

The marine biologists Russ and Alcala were jointly awarded the Pew Fellowship in Research in 1999, which has significantly influenced national policies on the need for MPAs in Australia and in the Philippines.

Both scientists collaborated in research for the last four decades until Alcala’s death in February this year.

The forum at Silliman University covered three parts: the celebration and commemoration of the life of Alcala; the 50th anniversary of the first community-based marine resource management meeting held on Sumilon Island in Cebu Province; and the 40th anniversary of annual surveys of fish and corals at the no-take marin reserves in Sumilon and at Apo Island off the coast of Dauin in Negros Oriental.

Continuing the legacy

Dr. Russ recalled how Dr. Alcala loved to “sit in fishing villages, talking to people, communicating, looking them in the eye, and talking to them as equals, and trying to initiate conservation measures.”

Dr. Robert Guino-o II, SUAKCREM director, said that Alcala himself grew up in a fishing village in the town of Cauayan in Negros Occidental.

“He had the instinct of a fisherman, enabling him to converse with the people from Apo Island and Sumilon Island [easily],” Dr. Guinoo said.

Professor Russ said he remembers Alcala talking to the locals about social preparation, community organization, environmental education, and community empowerment.

“Now, a reserve has been protected successfully for 41 years, from 1982 to 2023, due to the strong support of the reserve concept by the Apo islanders themselves, and successful community-based marine resource management,” he said.

Apo Island has been declared a Protected Landscape and Seascape under the Protected Area Management Board composed of representatives from the local government unit, the academe, and from local organizations in the community.

“It’s the best example anywhere in the world of how people can take ownership of marine management, and ownership of managing their resources and getting great success,” said Russ.

He added there are plans to continue Alcala’s projects and research works in other parts of Negros island to continue the groundwork that the National Scientist started. He said it is important to “get people involved in environmental management.”

“The children [now] at Apo Island, in both primary and secondary school, have never known a world without a marine reserve on their doors,” Russ noted.

He said when children are trained early in life the need to preserve marine life, they will also teach it to the next generation.

What the youth could do

Russ advised the youth to continue studying, get credible qualifications, and to be persistent.

He said one of the best things the youth can do is to “start volunteering with groups that are doing marine conservation” so that “you get your qualifications, and people will take note.”

Dr. Guino-o also advised the youth to “always connect with the local community to get their support and perspective.”

“Never start a program if you do not connect with your local officials,” he reiterated.

On the 174-hectare reclamation

Referring to the Dumaguete government’s development plans, Dr. Russ said he would be concerned if their project would proceed without environmental assessments.

“Make sure that all of the environmental and social impacts of a potential project like that are fully assessed,” he advised.

Russ said he is aware that Dr. Alcala was “very vocal in opposing land reclamation” around the airport, and the airport runway extension for the past years.

During the open forum, Rev. Carlton Palm asked about the similarities between the Great Barrier Reef fossil fuel reclamation in the 1960s, and the Dumaguete 174-hectare reclamation project.

Dr. Russ said the reclamation of the Great Barrier “got turned around” because of “people’s power”. “It was people wanting to conserve something that they thought was extremely valuable to the country,” he said.

Palm added, “I think we need to be reminded of people power and community power. This is what makes the difference. And we need to be called to that responsibility.” (Alenah Paulane Ligan and Nathaniel Carampatana/SU Masscom Com33 interns)



Photo Caption: Dr. Garry Russ from James Cook University speaks to the leaders of Apo Island about the importance of marine protected areas during a turnover ceremony of the Angel C. Alcala marker at Apo Island where the National Scientist instituted a socio-cultural program in the early 80s.



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