Ever since China ramped up their aggression in the West Philippine Sea (WPS), we always hear of Filipino fisherfolk at the unfortunate end of things. In these times when the government grit goes missing, the communities and their organization becomes more important than ever. In the midst of these bureaucratic neglect, Alberto “Ka Bobby” Roldan could always be found at the frontlines of defense.
Ka Bobby was born from a family of peasants in Bataan. He then learned to become a farmer and fisherfolk himself in his youth. He became active in various peasant and fisherfolk organizations when he saw the need to safeguard the rights of these poorest sectors of the society and to protect the environment.
As a community organizer, Ka Bobby regularly participates in coastal community mangrove protection and rehabilitation activities in Central Luzon, particularly in Bulacan, Pampanga, and Bataan provinces since the 2000s. He also worked with fisherfolk affected by the Obando, Bulacan dumpsite and landfill project which began in 2002. He has also been active in the campaign against large-scale black sand and nickel mining in the province of Zambales. At the wake of typhoons in the same province, he was always present when providing relief to vulnerable small-scale fisherfolk.
When the April 2012 standoff between PH Navy and Chinese ships occurred in Scarborough Shoal, he volunteered to assist affected fisherfolk of Zambales who were unable to go fishing in the contested waters. Since then, he became more involved in the campaign for the protection of the WPS and the promotion of the rights of Filipino fisherfolk against Chinese piracy and looting.
Ka Bobby assisted in organizing a fact-finding and solidarity mission on the WPS in Zambales in 2015. He also brought to the cities the challenges faced by the fisherfolk affected by Chinese occupation in the WPS and effectively exposed the effects of government handling of China’s aggression. Addressing Chinese occupation in the contested waters is direly necessary as it is believed to be costing Philippines PHP 33 billion a year, on top of the global marine environmental impacts of their activities.
As the Vice Chairperson for Luzon of fisherfolk organization PAMALAKAYA-Pilipinas, Ka Bobby assisted in strengthening several other small-scale fisherfolk organizations in Central Luzon by engaging in multi-stakeholder fora and assemblies, and dialogues with local government units and regional government agencies.
Due to Ka Bobby’s work as an organizer and his active exposure of destructive projects that afflict farmers and fisherfolk, he is often target by state red-tagging. He receives death threats and recently had his picture on posters in Mariveles, Bataan, maliciously associating him with the New People’s Army and labelling him as “terrorist”.
Despite the impending dangers, Ka Bobby shows no signs of stopping in bringing into light the issues of the marginalized and the environment. He believes in the strength of the masses to enforce genuine environmental protection however big and dangerous the adversaries are.