Nagpakabanang Mananagat sa Tigao (NAMATI) is an organization dedicated to voluntarily managing 57 hectares of marine protected area (MPA) for 26 years now in Barangay Tigao, Cortes, Surigao del Sur.
Before NAMATI was established, the place was with rampant illegal fishing using dynamite, cyanide, and other destructive practices that destroyed fish habitats and reduced fish catch. The current chairperson convinced other fisherfolk within the community to act on the issue, hence NAMATI was formed.
Marine protected area management is the top priority of NAMATI. They have a 24/7 guarding and patrolling system, maintain their equipment, restore damaged coral reefs and install artificial coral reefs. As a result, the source of marine resources was preserved and Surigao del Sur remained to among the top sources of high-value marine products. They also conduct coastal cleanup, mangrove planting/management, environmental orientation and bayanihan with non-members to promote awareness and gather support. They maintain livelihood projects that were availed through partnership with national government agencies and non-government organizations. These livelihood projects provide considerable sustenance to the organization and their activities.
Aside from occasional violators of the regulations in the MPA, NAMATI’s biggest challenge is the political discrimination in the form of threats and physical harassments and cut-off support from the municipal government of Cortes. In an attempt to force them to surrender the MPA to the municipal government unit, their fish nets were destroyed and their guardhouse almost burned which caused them to start all over again. For two instances, two of their Bantay Dagat were jailed for defending the MPA.
NAMATI continues to protect the waters in their barangay despite the dangers that come with it. They believe that protecting the environment is an urgent task that everyone needs to take.
NAMATI is the first organization that influenced the local government units of CARAGA Region and the first ever marine protected area established in the region. To date, over 25 marine protected areas within the Province of Surigao del Sur have been established with more or less 1,000 hectares of marine resources that are protected and conserved mainly by people’s organizations.