The people of Magallanes are full of hope that one day they will prosper by planting seaweeds. According to the elders, seaweeds used to be abundant and of good quality in their area. It is said that with the good income of the people there, the fishermen have built beautiful houses, and some were able to send their children through college. That is why they still believe in the big economic opportunity that the seaweeds can bring to them.

One of those who believe in this is the Biga Farmers and Fishermen Association (BFFA), the proponent group and the beneficiary of the PRDP-GEF in Magallanes for the Fish Sanctuary Rehabilitation (Magallanes Fish Sanctuary and Marine Reserve Rehabilitation). The group is tasked to guard their Marine Protected Area to increase the number of fishes and improve the status of the marine habitat, in return, they are also given a microenterprise project for Seaweeds Production and Marketing to help the members gain employment while guarding the sanctuary.

Although the challenge of replanting seaweeds is tough, the association did not give up because of the help and assistance given by the Philippine Rural Development Project-Global Environment Facility, in partnership with the Office of the Provincial Agriculturist – Sorsogon, and the Municipal Local Government Unit of Magallanes.

On February 18, 2021, the hard-working deputized fish wardens of BFFA planted 437 kilos of Kappaphycus alvarezii. This is a fast-growing seaweed variety, known to double its biomass in 15 days. It is widely used for commercial applications as gelling, thickening, and stabilizing agents, especially in food products such as frozen desserts, chocolate milk, cottage cheese, whipped cream, instant products, yogurt, jellies, pet foods, and sauces. It is also used for pharmaceutical formulations, cosmetics, and industrial applications such as mining.

After twenty-one days, they started to harvest their seaweeds and obtained a total of 652 kilos. According to Mr. Nilo Conde of OPAg-Sorsogon, Kappaphycus alvarezii has 10 grams growth rate per day and it has many uses which can help the livelihood of the residents.

The association is currently focusing on harvesting for expansion to increase their seaweeds. They are also planting other varieties such as spinosum and striatum to determine other varieties of seaweed suited in their area. Once they have increased their seaweed stocks, they will sell it as raw or dried seaweeds. They also hope that more residents in their area will be encouraged to plant seaweeds so that they can also have additional jobs.

Barangay Biga is one of the four PRDP Global Environment Facility (GEF) sites in the Province of Sorsogon. It covers a marine protected area (MPA) of 57.6-hectare fish sanctuary and marine reserve, designed to sustain the rejuvenation and the rehabilitation of the condition of fish habitats like coral reefs and seagrass beds. The GEF-funded projects aim to incorporate natural biodiversity conservation mechanisms and coastal fisheries resources management into the local government units’ commodity investment plan. (Michelle Angela G. Alfigura, DA-PRDP RPCO V InfoACE Unit)