Friday, December 19, 2014

Editorial by Ernesto T. Solidum

“DIWAE”, Treasure 
Of Kalibo Needs Protection

Angelwing clam (Pholas orientalis) or locally known as “Diwae” is a protected marine mollusk that is only found in shallow tidal waters of Kalibo. The neighboring Roxas City has a thriving shellfish industry famous for diwae but encountered setbacks because of unbridled harvesting. The unique clam is discovered in 2006 by local fisherfolks occupying an area of one (1) hectare straddling the boundaries of Pook and Caano.

A total of 60 fisherfolks in Pook under the supervision of Municipal Agriculture Office is organized as the Kalibo Angelwing Protection and Conservation Council (KAPCCO). Pook Brgy. Captain Ronald Marte installed the officers and members three months ago with Mr. Ronilo Saloria as chairman. By fiat, he heads an 11 member team from different GO’s and NGO’s where corporate interest is to protect and regulate the collection and gathering of the rare, endangered and most expensive bivalve in the Philippines.

Kalibo Ordinance No. 2009-007 approved on August 27, 2009 by then Mayor Raymar A. Rebaldo imposes conservation measures to protect or safeguard its marine environment, regulates harvesting by declaring off and open season and imposes stiff penalties for violators.

Unfortunately, five years after passage of the law, the one hectare protected marine habitat neither increased nor developed. Mr. Saloria bewails uncontrolled extraction of angelwing clams. Marketable mollusks are those reaching 3 inches but juveniles are not spared by gatherers.

The open season starts in May and ends in September while the close season is from October to April. But this is often violated because of the high price. Diwae sells for P400 per kilo in Boracay, Roxas City, and Tigbawan, Iloilo. Roxas City and Tigbawan use them mainly as seeding materials.

The highly sought soft bodied clam begins as sperm and egg in the coastal waters. The fertilized egg develops into a sensory trocophore larvae in about 12 hours in coastal water. After further physiological changes, the clam reaches a setting stage when it metamorphosised and the final adaptation to sedentary bottom existence. It thrives best in a mixture of deep sand and mud sea bottom less likely to be exposed to pollution, extreme water temperature and salinity.

Clams live deeply buried in the seabed using the greatly extensible siphons. It reaches length of more than 4 times the diameter of the shell. It feeds microscopic plants, animals and other organic food substances as they are filtered from the seawater.

Sexual maturity may be reached after one year when it can be harvested and marketed. Here, they reach 3 inches in diameter but its maximum size can be 7 inches said Mr. Saloria. The known predators of angelwing clams are blue crabs and sting rays because they live together in the same environment.

Undoubtedly, there is a need to regulate and protect this viable fishery project in Pook. A total of 50 – 70 kilograms of diwae is harvested per month during the open season. The bivalve is coveted by gourmets of high end hotels and restaurants in Boracay. Presently, there are no law enforcer on “sea angels” to deter poaching and other illegal fishing activities.

Mr. Primo Ibesate, Municipal Agricultural Officer of Kalibo said that for the last two years, diwae colonies have cropped up in New Buswang and Caano but their expansion is hindered by water pollution especially the open dump site in Bakhaw Sur. Water samples tested by DENR in and around the vicinity show high concentration of coliform bacteria: 11,000 – 17,000 per ml as Most Probable Number which is deleterious to fisheries and human health. This could be further aggravated once the Pook Jetty Port operates and oil slicks from sea-crafts become daily occurrence.

Presently, KAPCCO is nothing but a paper tiger. It has no funds, personnel and equipments. Under the Ordinance, the Office of the Provincial Agriculturist and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources are mandated to conduct annual underwater assessment on the angelwing culture site. However, Mr. Edgar Mendoza, Chief Fisheries Extension Regulatory Division admitted they have no technical capability to do so.
If they cannot render any technical assistance, the DA-BFAR must get other competent people to do the job. It must be remembered we are interested in technocrats who can deliver the goods. Not those who sit idly in their offices and complain if their salaries, bonuses and per diems are not given.

The angelwing clam in Kalibo must be treasured like the pina weaving industry. Sense of vision and commitment from government and stakeholders is paramount, without it nothing worthwhile comes into existence. /MP

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