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Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

by Secretary Emmanuel “Manny” Piñol

Chairman, MinDA

Kabasalan, Zamboanga Sibugay - At the mouth of the wide but shallow Kabasalan River where fresh water meets the sea, 76 fisherfolk families have found a virtual gold mine - 'Talaba' or Oyster Farming.

Yesterday, before the start of the 2-day Eco-Tourism Planning for the members of the fisherfolk association facilitated by the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA), I was led by the group's leader, Ruperto Magbanua Ballon, known as Ka Dodoy to many, in a tour of the Talaba Gardens which they have established at the mouth of the river.

I was accompanied by the town's young mayor, Katrina Cainglet-Balladares, who had thrown the local government's full support to the fisherfolks' project while admitting that she has very little knowledge about aquaculture or "Talaba" farming.

Ka Dodoy told me that they started the "Talaba" farms in 2001 with the help of an NGO and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources by gathering oyster spawns from the mangroves which they had preserved and protected.

Through the years, Ka Dodoy said they were able to develop their own technology of growing the Oysters which is done by "planting" the spawns in the sandy river bed, instead of attaching these to poles or ropes.

The farms are segregated by bamboo poles to mark which area belongs to a family.

The Kabasalan Oyster Farm now produces at least 700 kilos a day which is sold for P25 per kilo or P17,500 daily which means an income of P230 per family everyday.

The Oyster Farming has motivated fisherfolk families in abandoning the risky illegal fishing, according to Ka Dodoy.

Yesterday, I had a taste of freshly harvested "Talaba" straight from the farms while I was in a small boat with Mayor Cainglet-Balladares.

The taste was surprisingly oustanding.

The Oysters were succulent and sweet-tasting and it could be mainly because of the clean waters as the fisherfolk families had imposed upon themselves a river clean up campaign.

I have tasted the Oysters of Iloilo, Capiz and Aklan which are also good but I have to declare that the Kabasalan Oysters were the best.

With the experience and information that I had yesterday, the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) will now engage other agencies of government to assist the Oyster farmers of Kabasalan in increasing the availability of Oyster spawns.

This could involve the establishment of a hatchery in the town to fully develop their "Talaba" Gardening Industry which could benefit many other families as well.

Watch the full video here:

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