Pro-ocean warriors honored, vow to protect Tañon Strait
May B. Miasco (The Freeman) - June 10, 2016 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines - Though unable to walk anymore, 46-year-old Norlan Pagal Sr. doesn’t find his disability a hindrance in fighting against activities that threaten the country’s largest protected seascape, the Tañon Strait.

Pagal ended up in a wheelchair after he was shot and hit on his spinal cord by a group of fellow fishermen whom he confronted for intruding the protected seascape lying between Cebu and Negros islands.

“Kun dili mi maningkamot nga moproteher sa Tañon Strait, kami gihapon luoy labi na sa mga gagmay’ng mananagat,” said Pagal, a small-scale fisherman from Barangay Anapog, San Remegio, Cebu.

But all of his efforts paid off.

In time for the World Oceans Day on Wednesday, pro-ocean warriors including Pagal were recognized by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-7 and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources-7 in an event partnered by Oceana Philippines.

The awarding ceremony was held at the Cebu Parklane International Hotel Wednesday evening.

Pagal emerged as the Ocean Hero Awardee for Cebu Province for his exemplary initiatives in protecting and conserving Tañon Strait.

Fishing has been Pagal’s main source of livelihood until now that he is already married and blessed with five children. He started to fish since he was nine years old when he was still accompanying his father.

He has been a member of Bantay Dagat since 2002 until today. For the fourth time, he sits as the president of Anapog Fishermen Association, which is duly-registered by the Department of Labor and Employment.

His responsibility in protecting Tañon Strait also followed threats and risks.

There was a time when a group of fishermen threw at him dynamite and another instance when he was ganged up.

“Grabi among pakigbisog tungod sa kadaghang badlongon parehas anang mga commercial fishing operators ug sa mga mag-dynamite fishing. Adunay higayon nga abi namo mangamatay mi sa lawod kay banggaan man mi. Ingon ana kapait,” he shared.

In October 2015, he was shot and ended up in a critical condition. Fortunately, he survived but it was found out that he cannot walk already since the bullet penetrated his spinal cord.

The perpetrators are not yet identified by authorities until now.

“Ang gibarugan nako akong prinsipyo tungod kay ang dagat maoy nagbuhi namo. Mao kini among gikuhaan og para pagkaon ug panginabuhian aron mapaeskwela nako akong mga anak,” he said.

While three of his children are still under tertiary studies, two have already graduated from college with a bachelor’s degree on Accountancy and on Elementary Education.

Despite the adversities, Pagal said he has dedicated his life to continuing the cause of protecting Tañon Strait since he believes that the rich marine resources in the oceans should not be abused because they are life’s support system. (FREEMAN)

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