DENR: No more fish pens in Laguna Lake

gina lopez

By Lilybeth G. Ison

In view of President Rodrigo Duterte’s promise to prioritize poor fishermen in the use of the Laguna de Bay or Laguna Lake, Environment and Natural Resources Sec. Regina Lopez on Wednesday said she will issue a directive for the dismantling of big fish pens and revoke permits given to big corporations operating at the lake.

fish pens

The move is to develop and manage huge portions of the Laguna Lake to give out new entitlements, with farmers having the priority.

“Itong Laguna Lake, naubos na nga… wala na ang (para sa mga maliliit na) fishermen. ‘Yun na lang the difference between one big fishpen to the other… Makikita mo sa plane, every time I go to Davao and I pass by that place there, nakita ko talagang wala nang ano (para sa maliliit na mangingisda). And the fishermen are complaining about the loss. Talagang wala na sila. Kasi ang maliit na lugar, iyon lang ang kanila (Small fishermen making a living out of the Laguna Lake are left with very little area to ply their trade, with most areas allocated for private fish pens owned by big corporations. I can see it from the plane every time I go to Davao. Every time I can see that there’s really nothing left, and the fishermen are complaining about their loss, because they have very little left for them),” the President said in his first State-of-the-Nation Address (SONA) on Monday.

“This is what I’m telling you, the poor fishermen will have priority in its entitlements,” he stressed.

As of June 30, 2016, there are 357 registered and unregistered fishpen owners operating at the Laguna de Bay, according to the Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA).

Former LLDA Chairman Edgardo Manda earlier said the entitlements currently held by big corporations may range from 50 to 1,000 hectares of the lake surface.

He said some corporations now have big entitlements by merging those entitlements granted to their dummies.

Manda noted that some 20 percent of the 90,000-hectare lake surface of the Laguna Lake is now covered by entitlements granted to private corporations or individuals to manage and develop fish pens.

The Laguna Lake is the largest lake in the Philippines and one of the largest in Southeast Asia.

In view of its multiplicity of uses and benefits, its basin is the most important, dynamic and among the fastest-growing economic bases in the country. It has become the catch basin to Metro Manila’s population and urbanization/ industrialization overspill.

As the region has developed, the lake has suffered increasing levels of agricultural, industrial and domestic wastewater pollution.

The possible consequences of the rapid swelling of population include food and water shortage, worsening traffic congestion and environmental degradation, thus significantly affecting Laguna de Bay and its environs.

Problems such as pollution and waste primarily from domestic and agricultural sources; multiple and often conflicting water uses; vulnerability of lake shore settlements and developments to flood hazards and related health and economic risks, and indecision over resettlement; poorly regulated developments on the shore land, and critical watersheds inclusive of tenurial constraints, database management and monitoring; and fragmented utility infrastructure developments, including silting and development regulations of these investments contribute to the degradation of the lake.

In its draft medium-term development plan, the LLDA has recommended to intensify waste and pollution control through adaptive waste management systems primarily for domestic and agricultural sources; rationalize water use zoning to harmonize all uses within the lake including navigation and water-related waste management infrastructure; promote security of lake shore communities from flooding, health risks and minimize economic displacement through effective flood control programs and appropriate resettlement plans; rationalize watershed — and shore land — specific management policies based on validated threshold and vulnerability to sustain their ecological functions focused on incentive-based regulations and adaptive co-management systems; rationalize service and infrastructure-based network support for environmental management and sustainable economic uses of lake basin resources; rationalize ecotourism potential as development driver and promote lake-sensitive ecotourism developments; and adopt innovative financing schemes beyond regulatory fee collection, among others.

President Duterte vowed the Laguna Lake “shall be transformed into a vibrant economic zone showcasing ecotourism by addressing the negative impact of a watershed destruction, land conversion and pollution.” (PNA)

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