Ramon Magsaysay-winning fisher to address UPV Class of 2024

Ramon Magsaysay-winning fisher to address UPV Class of 2024

Roberto “Ka Dodoy” Ballon, the 2021 Ramon Magsaysay Award-winning fisher from Kabasalan town, Zamboanga Sibugay, will address the graduating class of the University of the Philippines Visayas (UPV) on July 9, 2024 at the UPV Covered Court, Miagao campus. 

Ballon exemplifies “service to the people,” making him the prime choice as the speaker of the 2024 UPV Commencement Exercises. His dedication to serving others and self-sacrificing leadership fueled the transformation of his community.

He has been leading the coastal community of Concepcion, Kabasalan in preserving the coastal environment that has been the life source for generations of fishing families since 1986 through the Kapunungan sa Gagmay’ng Mangingisda sa Concepcion (KGMC) or Association of Small Fisherfolk of Concepcion. 

Upon its inception, the association focused on mangrove reforestation after seeing how rampant fishpond conversion was and how the abandonment of these fishponds destroyed the mangrove forests when businesses collapsed. 

Ballon will share how KGMC initially started with 31 fishermen members, dramatically declined to just three because of little help and meager returns, but has now ballooned to 320 households because of his leadership and persistence. 

KGMC’s initial efforts eventually attracted support from the government and development institutions, which aided the community's food production and livelihood opportunities.

The group’s initiatives have been replicated in other towns in Zamboanga Sibugay and even in different areas. These and other changes have given new life to Kabasalan, now regarded as the seafood capital of the province and an ecotourism destination.

Ballon’s efforts, spanning decades, earned him the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Award, widely regarded as Asia’s premier prize and highest honor, in 2021 for his leadership and efforts to restore and manage the mangrove cover and protect the coastal resources of his community.

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