Laguna fish pens must go, Gina ordered
Fix Laguna Lake and turn it into an economic zone benefiting the poor fishermen, Environment Secretary Gina Lopez said were her marching orders from President Duterte regarding the 911-square-kilometer body of water into which 21 tributaries drain.
In a recent press briefing, Lopez bared her “initial plans” to carry out the President’s order which include removing fish pens from the lake, reconfiguring the sewage systems of the lakeside communities and reforestation of the mountains around it.
In his State of the Nation Address on July 25, Mr. Duterte instructed Lopez to limit the lake area taken up by fish pens owned by local government officials.
“Makita mo sa (You can see it from the) plane, every time I go to Davao I pass by that lake there. Every time nakita ko, talagang wala… (I see this, there’s really nothing… ). And the fishermen are complaining about their loss. Talagang wala na sila kasi ang maliit na lugar iyon lang ang kanila (They’re really left with nothing because the small area, that’s for them),” the President had said.
“So dito pinaraan ko lang (here I’m saying) in a diplomatic way that Laguna Lake shall be transformed into a vibrant economic zone showcasing ecotourism by addressing the negative impact of the watershed destruction, land conversion and pollution. Ito ang nilagay ko (This is what I put down). This is what I am telling you. The poor fishermen will have priority to its entitlements,” Mr. Duterte had said.
In her meeting with media last week, Lopez said Laguna Lake was “overfished.”
“So this was his directive: we lessen the fish pens because they’re too much, but in our lessening the fish pens, we shouldn’t jeopardize the poor fishermen. Now we’re going a step further: we’re going to convert the whole Laguna Lake area into a magnificent zone which will be special like no other,” Lopez said.
She said first they had to “maneuver” the septic system of 400,000 households which drain into the lake, and this would require coordination with various local government officials.
Lopez said the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) would also embark on a “massive reforestation” in the mountains around the lake “because all that silt from the forests go into the lake.”
In the same meeting, environmentalist Ipat Luna, whom Lopez said was going to be appointed an environment undersecretary, described the DENR’s plan for Laguna Lake as a “multi-pronged” approach.
“Local government would need to set up sewage treatment plants… We have to democratize the fish pens and fishing industry so they benefit the local people and the poor more instead of the rich. We also have to ensure enforcement of all laws, especially the [Laguna Lake Development Authority] law that requires [fish pen operators] to get permits. We also have to look at all the reclamation that is happening that is making the lake even shallower,” Luna said.
“If we can bring [Laguna Lake] back to its original pristine condition, the well-being of all the municipalities around the lake would be very good,” Lopez said.
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