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Ex-MNLF grows high-value marine products in Tawi-Tawi

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ISABELA CITY, Basilan – Members of the Matarrang Community Organization (MCO) in Tawi-Tawi expects to harvest this May about a metric ton of high-value marine products as a result of the assistance from USAID’s Growth with Equity in Mindanao (GEM).

Around 29 former Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) combatants are profitably farming grouper and abalone, a gyrate from the life they lived as armed guerrillas years ago and are now channeling their skills and energy into a new enterprise of sustainable aquaculture production.

The MCO has recently entered into a contract with the Tawi-Tawi Multi-Species Hatchery, under which the latter will provide the organization with abalone spats and grouper fingerlings for grow-out.

MCO president Najir Abdurajan said that once the high-value marine products have reached harvestable size, the hatchery will purchase them at prevailing market prices.

“Under the agreement, we will regularly supply the hatchery with market-size abalone which will be used as spawners,” Abdurajan said, adding that the group began as simple seaweed growers and have now branched out into high-value aquaculture production.

USAID’s Growth with Equity in Mindanao (GEM) program under its Sustainable Aquaculture and Fisheries Effort (SAFE) assisted the Tawi-Tawi Hatchery and the MCO in the finalization of agreement. The hatchery is expected to provide MCO with a stable market for its marine products.

GEM, earlier collaborated with the Tawi-Tawi Hatchery to instruct the group on the use of yusukei trays for sustained commercial-level scale production. MCO was also trained on aquaculture production and provided with production inputs to start its initial cycle, as part of the GEM Program’s Former Combatant Reintegration component.

GEM senior aquaculture specialist Tito Ilagan said that durable trays are more cost-effective and sustainable system than traditional fish pens or rock enclosures.

MCO expects to harvest this May one metric ton of grouper worth approximately US$11,000.00 and 200 kilograms of abalone valued at US$1,600. Abalone currently sells at P550 per kilo, while live grouper sells at P500 per kilo in domestic markets.

The GEM program has worked with fish growers’ association in western Mindanao, including the Sulu Archipelago, to discourage the practice of catching mature reef fish and abalone from the wild for grow-out.

GEM said that it has also provided selected groups of growers with training on site location, feed management and the establishment of commercial-scale culture systems. (GEM/RVC-PIA9 BaSulTa)




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