In lake cleanup, San Pablo folk join hands to find long-term solution
With the goal of protecting one of the natural wonders of San Pablo City in Laguna province, at least 400 residents and members of civic groups picked up their brooms and cleaned up the 3.7-kilometer circumference of Sampaloc Lake recently.
Fishermen and Philippine Army reservists, meanwhile, collected several tons of garbage, which were picked up by dump trucks in several trips.
“The keyword here is unity,” said Mandy Marino, one of the people who organized the community lake cleanup in San Pablo last month.
Marino rallied for support through social media, saying the initiative was the community’s response to the local government’s efforts to protect Sampaloc Lake.
San Pablo is home to seven interconnected lakes—Sampaloc, Palakpakin, Calibato, Bunot, Yambo, Pandin and Muhicap.
Sampaloc, located at the center of the city, is the largest and most popular. Tourists are drawn to a view that has Mt. Cristobal in the background. Locals rent out bicycles, while several stalls offer food and catering to joggers and families out on weekend picnics.
In 2014, the Germany-based Global Nature Fund (GNF) cited San Pablo’s lakes as “threatened” for the year, the first time an international organization cited a water body in the Philippines for environmental deterioration. The GNF said threats from illegal settlers were compounded by the proliferation of tilapia cages which, as of 2012, have already eaten up 40 percent of the lake surface, exceeding the 10 percent allowable space for fish structures.
Marino, 78, claimed the GNF findings are inaccurate and dismissed these as a “hoax.” He said space occupied by fish cages was just 10 percent of surface water and the number of illegal settlers, which peaked at 400 families decades ago, had gone down to an estimated 80 families in 2014.
Among the 20 organizations that joined the cleanup were a city-based group called “Friends of Rody Duterte” and Yakap sa Lawa, headed by Msgr. Jerry Bitoon.
“We are looking at not only short-term solutions,” said Bitoon, director of the ministry on ecology of the Diocese of San Pablo.
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