Ramon Aboitiz Foundation INC 6th Triennial Awards for exemplary individual and outstanding institution in the Visayas and Mindanao
(The Freeman) - August 8, 2015 - 10:00am

CEBU, Philippines - A passion for conservation Cantaan Centennial Multi-Purpose Cooperative (CCMPC) Founded in 1997

• Created a sanctuary for endangered giant clams,

home to six of the seven species found in the world

• Established conservation as a community effort

• Facilitated the provision of physical infrastructure

• Supports members in setting up livelihood projects

One multi-purpose cooperative in the beautiful island of Camiguin proves that resource conservation and community development can go hand in hand.

Beginnings

As in most worthwhile stories, it all began with one man’s quest.

A fisherman named Rolando Cordero, from barangay Cantaan in Guinsiliban town, Camiguin,was awarded as Gawad Saka Outstanding Capture Fisherman by the Department of Agriculture in 1994.

Cordero was noted for his conservation efforts of the endangered giant clams species (Tridacnagigas) in Camiguin. His efforts lead to setting up a Giant Clam Showcase, and stopping fishermen from giant clam poaching and focusing on fishing and conserving instead.

Cordero’s work later caught the interest of funding agencies who were willing to support his conservation efforts. The World Bank funded his giant clam conservation effort and provided assistance in developing his clam conservation facility.

In 1997, Cordero and the Cantaan Fishermen Association (CAFA) were invited to participate in the orientation of the Coastal Environment Program by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.  Through the encouragement and support of the DENR, CAFAwas inspired to focus on giant clam conservation.

CAFA was then involved in the “7,000 Clams for 7,000 Islands” project spearheaded by the University of the Philippines  Diliman Marine Science Institute. Marine conservation groups like Seamind and the Silliman University Angelo King Center for Research and Environmental Management worked with CAFA in acquiring different species of clams, providing technical training on clam conservation, and helping them set up giant clam reseeding sites and conservation facilities.

“In other units or organizations that would like to do giant clam training, after training, nothing happens. Kani sila desidido gyud, committed gyud na pagsulod sa giant clams, ila gyud padayunon. Gitagaan gyud namo sila og support kay makita namo nga tinuoray gyud ni ila to go into giant clams,” (In other units or organizations that would like to do giant clam training, after the training, nothing happens. This group was really committed to continuing the project. We gave them support because we could see that their efforts are sincere,)said Dr. Hilly Quiaoit of Xavier University Marine Center, one of the first marine biologists to work with CAFA.

Expansion of efforts

Recognizing the need to manage large amounts of funds to sustain their clam conservation facility, CAFA changed its name to Cantaan Centennial Multi-Purpose Cooperative (CCMPC) and received the approval of the Cooperative Development Authority on June 7, 1999. In October that same year, the Foundation for the Philippine Environment (FPE) approved the cooperative’s Giant Clam Sanctuary project proposal and was granted Php114,000 to fund a 3,000 square-meter conservation site.

With just 30 clams in 1997, the Giant Clam Sanctuary now hosts over 4,000 clams to date. It is home to six of the seven giant clam species in the world. Full-grown clams as big as one meter in diameter are scattered offshore at a depth of ten to 20 meters, sheltered by coral reefs. Medium-sized to full-grown clams are arranged in rows on the shallows. Hundreds of baby giant clams, offspring of the clams first acquired by CCMPC, are also set up in rows, in large rectangular tanks on the land-based nursery facility. They are proof of CCMPC’s depth of commitment and passion for conservation.

Research groups from universities local and from abroad, continue to visit the site to study the clams.   CCMPC has also expanded its conservation efforts and now also manages a fish sanctuary, a mangrove sanctuary, and a mud crab nursery.

The giant clam conservation site has since evolved to include a tourist facility complete with snorkeling gear for guided tours, a restaurant, sari-sari store (neighborhood convenience store) and even a souvenir shop. The facility averages 1,000 visits per month, with that number doubling during the summer season.

Tourists have the opportunity to take in the beauty of the giant clam conservation site, snorkeling at a safe distance by the clams and taking in their majestic beauty.

While the cooperative welcomes the influx of tourists, which gives income for operational costs, CCMPC remains cautious and continues to enforce strict measures to ensure that the giant clams remain undisturbed. No tourist is allowed to wander off on his own to visit the clam gardens both on land and at sea.

Involving the community

Cantaan is a small barangay with 441 residents and 97 households with their primary livelihood as fishing. Largely through CCMPC’s efforts, the conservation site, which now spans four hectares, was declared a Marine Protected Area by the Municipality of Guinsiliban in 2003. While this helped improve the biomass and coral growth, as well as allowed the giant clams to thrive and populate, the Cantaanons felt that their source livelihood was taken away.

“Nasuko sila kay ngano daw guidili, nganong bawalan daw sila sa pagpangita diha sa area nga sa una diha man gyud ilang pangitaan.  Ginahinay-hinay lang gyud namo sila pag-encourage, pag-educate permanente.  Ang CCMPC mao gyud na ilang ginahimo,” (They became angry, asking why they were forbidden from continuing their livelihood in that area. Slowly, we encouraged them, educated them. That is what CCMPC did.) says Cantaan Barangay Captain, Yolanda Cordero.

To date, 56 households in Cantaan have become members of the CCMPC. Seeing the value of the conservation site in their barangay, as well as the cooperative’s expansion of its conservation efforts, members have taken an active role in the maintenance of the marine protected areas. They likewise receive a daily honorarium for their services.

The youth of Cantaan have also taken an active role in the giant clam conservation efforts. Guided tours and lectures are conducted by the Cantaan Youth Marine Resource Angelo King Association (Cymraka), the youth counterpart borne out of CCMPC. Trained Cymraka members, as young as eight years old, are able to conduct technical lectures on the life cycle of clams, complete with scientific names, life cycle and species distinctions.

CCMPC has also helped its members start alternative livelihood projects like raising hogs and ducks, vegetable farming, souvenir making and setting up sari-sari stores by providing loans.

CCMPC chairperson Alona Cordero states that its goal is to support members who are interested in going into individual family enterprises. “Ang among kooperatiba stable na siya. Mangita mi og funding para katong mga interesado nga mu-expand na sila, matagaan namo og suporta,”(Our cooperative is stable. We look for funds so that we can provide support to our members who are interested in expanding on their own) she said.

Because of the continued interest of funding agencies, CCMPC has also helped facilitate the construction of roads in the barangay. At present, about 70 percent of Cantaan’s road network has been concreted. Construction of a multi-purpose hall has also begun, funded by the Coastal Resource Management Project.

Looking ahead

CCMPC’s efforts and success are deeply rooted in the values of respect for life and bayanihan (cooperation). It sees itself as a steward of nature, preserving and conserving her gifts so future generations may continue to enjoy them. Because of passion and commitment CCMPC has gained support from environmental groups around the world and, more importantly, inspired purpose and brought development to the Cantaan community.

“It’s the total involvement of the community. And that starts from the adults in the community to the children. Therein lies the sustainability, if they’ve instilled in the people in the community this ideal of realizing something special in what they have, and wanting to be a part of it, and wanting to take care of it,” said Siliman University Angelo King Center for Research and Environmental Management Research Coordinator Richard Ebner.

He adds that the government and funding agencies only need to provide their support so that CCMPC can continue working towards its goals.

As for Rolando Cordero, the man who started it all and now 70, he still continues to watch over his giant clams as a father would a toddler taking its first steps. His hopes are that others continue what he has started, and that the Cantaan community may continue to grow in unity.

“Ang ako gusto nga sa umaabot pa nga mga adlaw, madungagan  pa kini nila,” says Rolando. “Ang ako gusto nga ang isa lugar ka grupo sa mga tawo maningkamot ba nga mabuhi sila.”  (What I want is that in the coming days, they will add to what I have started. I want to see that a group of people are working hard together so that they can survive) said Cordero.

Through the years, CCMPC has not only nurtured life in its pristine waters. More than this, the cooperative has slowly uplifted the lives of its members. As the giant clams of Camiguin continue to grow in their own natural habitat, CCMPC brings life not only to the waters of Camiguin but to those on land as well. (FREEMAN)

ACIRC ANG CAMIGUIN CANTAAN CCMPC CLAM CLAMS CONSERVATION EFFORTS GIANT STRONG
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