Filipino Roberto Ballon is 1st fisherman recipient of Ramon Magsaysay Award

Roberto Ballon Ramon Magsaysay Award
Filipino fisherman and environmentalist Roberto “Ka Dodoy” Ballon was awarded Asia’s highest honor for creating a sustainable marine environment for this generation and generations to come. RMAF photo.

Filipino fisherman and environmentalist Roberto “Ka Dodoy” Ballon has been named the recipient of the 2021 Ramon Magsaysay Award, widely regarded as the Nobel Prize of Asia.

Ballon was announced as one of the five awardees of Asia’s premier prize and the highest honor given by the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation (RMAF) on August 31, 2021.

The 53-year-old fisher from Zamboanga Sibugay was recognized by the awards body for “leading his fellow fisherfolk to revive a dying fishing industry” and “creating a sustainable marine environment for this generation and generations to come”.

“I am grateful to the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation for choosing me and giving me this huge honor as a fisherman,” Roberto Ballon said in Filipino after being elected to receive the honor.

“I dedicate this also to all fishermen, especially the small fisherman across the Philippines. And because of this, let us keep improving and strengthening our programs,” Ballon continued.

“Hopefully because of this, more people will know and support our programs for the small fisherfolks in the Philippines.”

In 1986, Ballon and thirty other fishermen started Kapunungan sa Gamay nga Mangingisda sa Concepcion (KGMC) or the Association of Small Fishermen of Concepcion.

Seeing how rampant fishpond conversion was and how the abandonment of the fishponds when the business had collapsed and destroyed the mangrove forests, Ballon and his group established KGMC to focus on mangrove reforestation.

Ballon and his group’s perseverance attracted government support and they were granted tenurial rights to the reforested land under a government forestry co-management program. The 50 hectares they replanted by 1994 had expanded to 500 hectares of mangrove forests by 2015.

The KGMC now has a membership of 320 households and the group’s success has led to other projects. In partnership with the municipal government, KGMC members were also deputized to conduct the local Bantay Dagat or Sea Patrol volunteer program, aimed at protecting municipal waters from illegal fishing and mangrove logging.

KGMC’s initiatives have been replicated in other towns in Zamboanga Sibugay and beyond, giving new life to Kabasalan, now regarded as the seafood capital of the province and an ecotourism destination.

Ballon and this year’s Ramon Magsaysay Awardees from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, and Southeast Asia will receive their awards at the Ramon Magsaysay Center in Manila on November 28, 2021.

Established in 1958, the Ramon Magsaysay Award celebrates the memory and leadership example of the seventh Philippine president after whom the award is named and is given every year to individuals or organizations in Asia who manifest the same qualities of the late and beloved Filipino leader.

Previous Ramon Magsaysay Awardees from the Philippines include the Philippines’ National Artist for Music Ryan Cayabyab, Former Philippine Ambassador to the Holy See and Malta, Howard Q. Dee, Filipino dancer and academic Ligaya Fernando-Amilbangsa, and former ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales.

SEND CONGRATULATIONS in the comments below to Filipino fisherman and environmentalist Roberto “Ka Dodoy” Ballon for winning the 2021 Ramon Magsaysay Award, widely regarded as the Nobel Prize of Asia.

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Margo Hannah De Guzman Quadra
Margo is a voracious reader - some might even say she reads too much for her own good. She majored in BS Psychology and hopes to become a forensic psychologist one day. She’s also an aspiring writer, mental health advocate, and a staunch believer of equality.