Fishkill in Taal Lake spreads to Lipa, 2 towns in Batangas
BATANGAS CITY, Philippines—Showing no signs of abating, the Taal Lake fishkill has spread to two more towns and a city over the weekend.
Authorities on Sunday reported tons of farmed and endemic fish species turning belly up in new areas of the freshwater lake, just hours after they were done emptying some of the worst-hit fish cages of rotting stock from last week’s devastation.
The new fishkill hit the towns of Mataas na Kahoy and Cuenca, as well as Lipa City, provincial information officer Ginette Segismundo told the Inquirer on Sunday.
It not only affected milkfish (bangus) and tilapia which were grown in fish cages but also varieties endemic to the lake such as biya, pauto, apta, katang, siliw and muang, Segismundo said in a phone interview.
After three days without any new sighting of dead fish, a fresh wave of the fishkill left at least 20 metric tons of cultured milkfish and tilapia and about a ton of endemic varieties dead, he said.
But at least two cages in Cuenca did not report any massive fish kill, the official noted.
Lipa, Cuenca and Mataas na Kahoy lie along a section of the lake some 5 kilometers southeast of the town of Talisay, the worst-hit among the seven Batangas towns affected by the fishkill, Segismundo said.
Dead fish from Lipa, Cuenca and Mataas na Kahoy have since been collected for burial, Segismundo added.
Sioli Manalo, a barangay chair in Mataas na Kahoy, said her village rented backhoes to dig a pit in Sitio Tagbakin, some 100 meters from the shoreline.
Citing accounts given by the caretakers of the fish pens, Manalo said the lake water became very hot on Saturday, shortly before the fish started dying in large numbers at dawn on Sunday.
Harvesting operations have begun in fish cages that remained unaffected, she said.
Segismundo said the Talisay section of Taal Lake had been totally cleared of rotting fish as of late Saturday. Spearheaded by the provincial government, the cleanup was conducted from 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. on June 4.
Excluding Sunday’s deaths, officials estimated that up to 2,000 metric tons of fish worth P142 million had been lost to the fishkill since early last week.
Experts initially blamed the phenomenon on the depletion of the water’s oxygen level with the onset of the rainy season.
But Environment Secretary Ramon Paje later conceded that overstocking by fishery owners of their cages, in addition to polluted waters, could have also caused the fishkill in Taal Lake.
Also on Sunday, a national fishers group urged the government to ban large-scale fish pens in several other lakes across the country to avert future fishkills.
Fernando Hicap, head of the militant fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) identified eight lakes that should be free from large-scale aquaculture.
The eight are Lanao Lake in Marawi City; Lake Mainit which connects the provinces of Agusan del Norte and Surigao del Norte; Naujan Lake in Mindoro Oriental; Buluan Lake, which connects Sultan Kudarat and Maguindanao; Lake Bato and Lake Buhi in Iriga City; Lake Dapao in Lanao del Sur; and Lake Sebu in South Cotabato.
“For the last 24 years, Pamalakaya had been telling the national government to refrain from awarding fishpond lease contracts to big-time fishing groups and individuals to prevent overcrowding, exploitation and fishkill, but our 24-year-old proposals always fall on deaf ears,” Hicap said on Saturday.
Hicap said granting government contracts and other form of lease agreements to aquaculture concessionaires must be stopped to prevent fishing monopolies from maintaining large-scale fish pens.
He said the fishkills in Anda and Bolinao in Pangasinan and in Taal Lake were the result of long-running abuse coupled with the dumping of waste waters from industrial and commercial establishments. With a report from Delfin Mallari Jr., Inquirer Southern Luzon
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