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Monday, February 04, 2008

Dr. Alice Joan G. Ferrer:
The Restless Beauty and Brain


By

Melchor F. Cichon
February 5, 2008


“I am restless and I feel guilty when I do nothing.”

This was her response when I asked her how she describes herself.

And her restlessness pays.

Since her graduation from college in 1991, she has been involved in scientific researches, and creative works, including dream analysis. Her latest craze is painting on egg shells.

Dr. Alice Joan G. Ferrer, or Alice, as she is fondly called by her colleagues, was born in Dumangas, Iloilo. But her family moved to Jaro, Iloilo City when she was already 13 years old, about to start first year high school. But now she resides in Guimaras with her husband, Jerry, and her three children. Her eldest, a girl, is taking up nursing.

Alice is the fourth of the five siblings. Two of her sisters are chemical engineers, while her other sister is a medical doctor. Their youngest, a boy, is a police officer.

After graduation from high school as salutatorian from the West Visayas State University, she enrolled at the UP Visayas College of Arts and Sciences, majoring in economics and psychology.

“Truly”, she said, “I did not like economics. In fact, it was not me who filled up my UPCAT application form. My sister’s boyfriend did it for me. My mother wanted me to take up law to help the poor. But truly I did not know what to get in college.”
After studying some units in economics, she thought of shifting to management. But she disregarded the idea when she realized that it would take her longer time to finish her degree.

But eventually, she loved the course. She in fact was a Drillon-Fonacier Scholar for two years.

After graduation in 1991, she was hired by her alma mater as a faculty. In 1993, while teaching, she enrolled in the Master in Management (Public Management) program of the College of Management, U.P. Visayas, Iloilo City. Unfortunately, she was not able to take the comprehensive exam for graduation because in June 1995 she started graduate school in UP Diliman.

In 1996, she received her MA in economics degree, and in 2003 her Ph.D. in Economics also in UP Diliman. She was actually one of the two students in their batch of 24 students who was invited to continue their second year in the PhD program as a straight program. She accepted the invitation and at the same time made sure she would receive her master’s diploma ahead of time. She got it after 1.5 years. That is, she still continued with the requirements of a master’s degree for one semester, while at the same time was in the PhD program.

On her return to the CAS, UPV, after Ph.D., she conducted her first research entitled: Sexuality Education in Secondary High Schools in Iloilo City. She did it, as she wanted to do something different from economics

Then she was given a Chancellor Grant for a returning Ph. D. holder.

That started her romance with fisheries research, although her undergraduate thesis was on the economics of milkfish in Iloilo City.

Her thesis is so relevant to the fisheries industry in the Philippines as it was cited in one of the big projects funded by the Dutch government by a professor from the College of Fisheries, UP Visayas in the early 1990s. She was informed that the proponent saved a lot of money because of her thesis.

And in a span of four years, Alice was able to complete 20 researches, published 8 scientific articles and two poems. She has presented 15 papers in various conferences and symposia, both local and abroad. She also received 4 awards, and had gone to Malaysia, China, India, and People’s Republic of China.

She was also a member of the CIDA project, ISLE Health Team, even while she was away in graduate school. She worked with Dr. Ida Siason and Prof. Nera Katalbas in the health team from UPV. The BS in Public Health was one of the outputs and the course PH101 (Health Challenges in Island Context). With ISLE she was able to visit Jamaica twice (University of West Indies) and Canada (Dalhousie University). ISLE is Island Sustainability Livelihood and Equity.

Also, she was invited for a study mission in Newfoundland, Canada by the International Development Research Centre to look at the experience of the province with cod moratorium for 15 years.

So it seems that this busy lady has no more time for her kids and her husband.

“I make it a point that I eat supper with them, and when they wake up I am with them. And on weekends, if I am not in the field conducting research, I spent my time with them. But even then, I do something to keep me busy. I either write or paint.”
And when I asked Alice what triggered her to go to fisheries, she said. “There are a lot of opportunities, challenges, and happiness in fisheries, especially when she sees the finished reports, beside the money and travel.” She enjoyed going to different places in the country to interview fishers, government officials, government planners. And in the past years, she was able to visit the People Republic of China, India, Thailand and Malaysia to present her research findings and get more foreign contacts.

Here are some of the titles of her researches and published works on fisheries:

Project Leader: Health Assessment Component. Social and Health Assessment and Economic Valuation of MT Solar 1-Petron Oil Spill Off Guimaras Island, Philippines. September 2006 – January 31, 2007. Funded by the National Disaster and Coordinating Council (NDCC).

Study leader. “Health Care Services Utilization and Cost Among Residents of Mt Solar 1 Oil Spill- Affected Coastal Barangays In Guimaras.” Social and Health Assessment and Economic Valuation of MT Solar 1-Petron Oil Spill Off Guimaras Island, Philippines. September 2006 – January 31, 2007. Funded by the National Disaster and Coordinating Council (NDCC).

Study Leader. “Understanding the Responses To Oil Spill of the Residents of Affected Coastal Barangays In Guimaras.” Social and Health Assessment and Economic Valuation of MT Solar 1-Petron Oil Spill Off Guimaras Island, Philippines. September 2006 – January 31, 2007. Funded by the National Disaster and Coordinating Council (NDCC)

Study Leader. “Acute Health Problems Among Cleanup Workers of MT Solar 1 Oil Spill In Guimaras, Philippines.” Social and Health Assessment and Economic Valuation of MT Solar 1-Petron Oil Spill Off Guimaras Island, Philippines. September 2006 – January 31, 2007. Funded by the National Disaster and Coordinating Council (NDCC)

Co-Study Leader. Health Situation and Health Protection Practices Among Clean Up Workers in Nueva Valencia, Guimaras. Social and Health Assessment and Economic Valuation of MT Solar 1-Petron Oil Spill Off Guimaras Island, Philippines. September 2006 January 31, 2007. Funded by the National Disaster and Coordinating Council (NDCC).

Project Leader. “Assessment of the Nature and Viability of the Northern Iloilo Alliance for Coastal Development.” Funded by the VisSea Project of the German Technical Cooperation (GTZ) and Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (DA-BFAR). July 1, 2004 to March 31, 2005.

Project Leader. “Assessment of the Operation of the Bantay Dagat in Iloilo Province and Sagay City, Negros Occidental.” Funded by the VisSea Project of the German Technical Cooperation (GTZ) and Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resourcces (DA-BFAR). July 15, 2004 to March 31, 2005.

Project Leader. “Factors Influencing the Entry of Young People into the Fishing Sector of the Visayan Sea.” Funded by the VisSea Project of the German Technical Cooperation (GTZ) and Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resourcces (DA-BFAR). July 23, 2004 to March 31, 2005.

Assistant Project Coordinator and Team Leader for the Concepcion Study. “Fish Fights over Fish Rights: Managing Exit from the Fisheries and Security Implications for Southeast Asia – the Philippine Case Study.” Funded by The WorldFish Center and the Ford Foundation. May 1, 2004 to December 31, 2004

Researcher. “Sex and Nutritional Status of Underseven Children in the Coastal Barangays in Buenavista, Guimaras.” Self-financed research. May 2004 to July 2004.

Co-Project Leader. “The Philippine Fish Processing and Postharvest Industry: An Assessment and Review of Resources, Technology and Socioeconomics.” August 1, 2001 to July 31, 2002. Funded by the Bureau of Agricultural Research, Department of Agriculture.

Project Leader. “Devolution of Health Care Services in the Philippines.” A joint project entitled, “Decentralization Experience ISLE-Health Partner Countries”, of the Island Sustainability, Livelihood and Equity-Health Committee with members from the University of the Philippines in the Visayas, Dalhousie University(Canada), University of Prince Edward Island (Canada), Hassanudin University (Indonesia), and University of the West Indies (Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago). January 1999 to November 2000. Funded by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).

Co-Project Leader, Economics and Management of Gillnet and Seine Fishing in Guimaras Strait and Adjacent Waters, 1993. Funded by Asian Fisheries Social Science Research Network-International Center for Living Aquatic Resources and management. (AFSSRN-ICLARM).

Project Leader. Evaluation of Fisheries Management Options for the Visayan Sea: The case of northern Iloilo. August 1, 2007 to July 30, 2008. Funded by the Economy and Environment Program for Southeast Asia. (on-going)

Health Assessment and Monitoring of Residents of Lapaz and San Roque, Nueva Valencia, Guimaras Exposed to MT Solar 1 Oil Spill. October 1, 2007 to September 30, 2008. Funded by the National Disaster and Coordinating Council (NDCC).

Publications

Ferrer, AJG. 2006. “Gender and Nutritional Status of Underseven Children in the Coastal Barangays in Buenavista, Guimaras.” Edited by Choo, P.S., S.J. Hall and M.J. Williams. Global Symposium on Gender and Fisheries: Seventh Asian Fisheries Forum, 1-2 December 2004, Penang, Malaysia. Malaysia: WorldFish Center. Pp 59-68.

Ferrer, Alice Joan G., Michele Amor Maroliña, and Yoko Tampos. 2004. “Profitability of Sergisted Shrimp (Acetes spp.) Catching Using Saludan and Sungkit in Tigbauan, Iloilo.” Danyag (UPV Journal of Social Sciences and Humanities), 7(1&2, June): 19-33.

Pestaño, M.C., A.J. Ferrer and J.A. Jusayan. 1998. “The Economics of Gillnet Fishing in the Philippines”, In: J Roch, S. Nurhakim, J. Widodo and A. Poernomo (eds), Proceedings of the Social-Economics Innovation and Management (SOSEKIMA) of Java Sea Pelagic Fisheries. 4-7 December 1995. Bandungan, Semarang, Indonesia.

She said that since the Philippine fisheries is such a complex entity, it is difficult to solve its many problems.

And the main culprit of these problems are the people themselves and their desire for more money. This is simply a case of mismanagement.

With the increase of Philippine population, which is now about 88.7 millions, and with their increasing average life span, more and more fish are needed to meet their basic needs. This includes sustainable livelihood and enough income. And once people start fishing, it is difficult to get them out of this system, especially so with the sustenance fishermen. With their low income, their children will eventually follow the footsteps of their fathers since going to school is almost next to impossible. So they end up as fishers.

One way of changing this vicious cycle, according to Dr. Ferrer, is to bring the schools where these children are. But then again, do we have the money to establish and maintain them?

According to Dr. Ferrer, the other problem why the Philippine fisheries is not that much developed is because of the lack of logistics on the part of the planners and the law enforcers and the technical assistance being provided to all stakeholders. And there is a possibility that the law enforcers can be corrupted by the commercial fishermen or be pressured by the politicians to do unlawful fishing activities.

This reminds me of the article of Aguilar et al.(2003). He said:

”With the implementation of the Fisheries Code or RA 8550 and the definition of municipal waters in the Local Government Code, the mode has shifted from an open access fishery where everyone can fish anywhere to a territorial based one where local control of municipal waters is left to the Local government Unit. While accommodations to commercial fisheries from the 10.1 to 15 kilometers distance to the municipal within the law, local control of municipal waters represents a challenge to the municipal fisheries in terms of balancing sustainability with production requirements. Periodical comprehensive socio-economic and ecosystem evaluation is required to assess effectiveness and efficiency of mechanisms defined by the provision of the law.

“Two weaknesses in the local government units are identified as a major hindrance in implementing the laws mandated for coastal resources management. One is the lack of technical assistance to help them in understanding fisheries management in relation to the national laws. Second is the lack of funds to institute fisheries patrols, surveillance systems and effective legal procedures to assess fines and other such legal procedures,” (pp. 193-194).

So how can these problems be solved?

According to Dr. Ferrer, with more than half of the municipalities in the country are coastal municipalities among the 1650 municipalities in the country, and with the vast marine waters around us which are now almost depleted, there must be an independent department to oversee the Philippine fisheries, not just a bureau of the Department of Agriculture so that it can have its own budget and can drive its own course.

Meanwhile, she wishes to work on the Visayan Sea (VisSea) because though it has so much marine resources, it is least studied, although, VisSea has its own problems. Hopefully, there will be a management regime that can minimize if not eradicate its current problems and this management program can be replicated in other fishing grounds in the country.

Indeed the Visayan Sea is one of the most productive fishing grounds in the Philippines.

It is enclosed by the island-provinces of Cebu, Masbate, Iloilo and Negros Occidental and it is located between 11 and 12 degrees North latitude and 123 and 124 degrees East longitude. It is approximately 10,000 square kilometers wide.
A large amount of fishes and other fishery products are caught in this area like: barracudas, big-eyed scad, bogies, dolphin fishes, eels, flatfishes, frigate tuna, gizzard shads (kabasi), goatfishes, groupers, lizard fishes, marlin, milkfish, moonfish, moray, rays, round herring, roundscad, sailfish, sea bass, sea catfishes, shark, siganids, skipjack, slipmouths, snapper (maya-maya), Spanish mackerels, surgeon fish, sword fish, and threadfin breams (bisugo).

The Visayan sea is also abundant of the following: abalones, clams, cockles, crabs, lobsters, mussels, oysters, prawns, scallops, seaweeds.shells,.shrimps, sponges, squids, and turtles.

Below is the commercial production of Visayan Sea from 1953 to 1995.

Year Visayan Sea (in kg) Philippines (in kg)

1953 17,673,216 305,626,141
1954 27,225,157 343,624,987
1955 25,086,591 362,927,057
1956 28,270,623 393,648,000
1957 not available 387,170,000
1958 29,503,014 426,666,000
1959 28,859,710 436,481,000
1960 25,977,720 444,622,000
1961 31,220,390 454,899,000
1962 32,530,320 483,948,000
1963 43,560,840 547,354,000
1964 53,926,880 603,506,000
1965 70,148,280 667,202,000
1966 85,812,320 705,278,000
1967 118,265,160 746,063,000
1968 124,163,520 937,684,000
1969 112,735,480 940,792,000
1970 89,992,640 988,884,000
1971 72,477,320 1,023,095,000
1972 81,115,190 1,122,410,000
1973 169,393,470 1,204,837,000
1974 161,448,840 1,268,368,000
1975 181,030,900 1,336,803,000
1976 151,237,120 1,393,483,000
1977 175,080,000 1,508,855,000
1978 185,358,000 1,580,404,000
1979 197,874,000 1,581,303,000
1980 135,226,000 1,672,254,000
1981 125,559,000 1,772,897,000
1982 121,894,000 1,896,983,000
1983 130,528,000 2,110,230,000
1984 141,991,000 2,080,439,000
1985 not available 2,052,111,000
1986 126,181,000 2,089,484,000
1987 135,137,000 2,213,040,000
1988 137,196,000 2,269,744,000
1989 137,196,000 2,371,109,000
1990 150,854,000 2,503,546,000
1991 159,657,000 2,598,981,000
1992 165,256,000 2,625,607,000
1993 131,709,000 2,631,945,000
1994 134,537,000 2,720,989,000
1995 120,267,000 2,785,085,000

Dr. Alice Joan G. Ferrer is young, but her accomplishments as a researcher is legion. For sure her thoughts as reflected in her numerous researches and publications will have a far-reaching impacts on the way we manage our natural resources.