National Scientist Dr. Angel C. Alcala, considered the father of marine protected areas (MPAs), is certain to be remembered for a long while.
Despite his passing on Feb. 1, 2023, his memories and legacy will continue to live on and linger not only among his family and close associates, but also on those whose lives were touched and impacted by his life and advocacy.
In fact, his advocacy for the conservation of marine biodiversity earned him various awards and recognitions. Among these are: the Order of National Scientist, awarded by then President Benigno Aquino III in 2014 under Proclamation 782; Ramon Magsaysay Award for Public Service, given in 1992 for pioneering scientific leadership in restoring and conserving the coral reefs; Oceans Legend, given by the Partnerships in Environmental Management for the Seas of East Asia (PEMSEA) during the East Asian Seas Congress in Iloilo City in 2018; ASEAN Biodiversity Hero, awarded by the ASEAN Center for Biodiversity in 2017; Gregorio Y. Zara medal for Basic Science by the Philippine Association for the Advancement of Science, Inc. (PhilAAS) in 2011; Outstanding Men and Women of Science by the Department of Science and Technology in 2009; and Ilaw ng Karunungan Award for Biological Sciences by the Philippine Fulbrighters’ Association in 1983.
“People have the tendency to exploit natural resources a lot faster than its capacity to produce. This is not the way to go if we are to ensure sustainable production.” Dr. Alcala stressed this at the ASEAN Biodiversity Heroes awarding ceremony in 2017 to underscore the importance of conserving biodiversity.
Just to show how determined Dr. Alcala was in conserving marine biodiversity, he established various MPAs. Among these are the Sumilon Marine Reserve in southern Cebu and the Apo Marine Reserve in southern Negros. His advocacy and the example he showed led to the establishments of over a thousand MPAs in Bohol and other parts of the country.
His pioneering no-take MPAs showed to everyone that sustainable fish production is attainable.
“In establishing MPAs, you produce more fish and you use only the fish produced by the marine reserves. The capital is left intact,” Dr. Alcala said at the ASEAN Biodiversity Awards rites in 2017.
He likened his advocacy of conserving marine biodiversity to investing money in the bank. If you keep your capital and keep on investing, your money grows. In like manner, if you conserve and care for your fish stock, the better your harvest is.
Apart from keeping himself busy with his advocacy, Dr. Alcala also shared his talents with various institutions.
He served as secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) from 1992 to 1995, and chairman of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) from 1995 to 1999.
At the time of his passing, he was the vice chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Silliman University, where he graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Science in Biology degree.
Dr. Alcala was also an independent director of Centro Escolar University (CEU) since 2007. There, he provided advice on research direction in Biology and on the publication of research output. He also gave lectures on biological science.
With his passing, Dr. Alcala has left a gaping hole in the country’s biodiversity conservation campaign. But we express hope that his advocacy of conserving biodiversity, particularly marine biodiversity, will be continued to ensure sustainable fish production.