Fish pen owners defy demolition directive
SAN PEDRO CITY—Not a single fish pen operator in Laguna de Bay has heeded the government’s order to harvest his fish stock and dismantle his own structure, amid the one-year moratorium imposed on the fishing industry in the country’s largest inland body surrounding the provinces of Laguna and Rizal, and Metro Manila.
The Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA), in a board resolution approved on Feb. 1, gave fish pen owners until March 31 to “self-demolish,” otherwise the government is poised to take over and seize their property in the lake.
The agency, in January, had stopped issuing or renewing permits for fish pens to use the lake.
“There is no operator, in his right mind, who would spend money for self-demolition,” said Benjamin Antonio, president of the Association of Laguna Lake Fish Producers and Fisherfolks Inc., on Thursday.
The group, with more than 100 fish pen owners as members, challenged the LLDA’s resolution, which, it said, ran counter to Republic Act No. 4850 that created the LLDA. It said the agency was formed with developing fishery in Laguna de Bay as its “main thrust.”
President Duterte, in his State of the Nation Address last year, said he wanted the lake transformed into a vibrant economic zone and give poor fishermen priority in its use.
“We also noted the President’s remarks … (but) ultimately, setting down policy is the function of Congress, not of the executive branch,” the operators said in a letter to the LLDA.
LLDA general manager Jaime Medina said his agency was regulating lake activities “to let the lake rest for a while.”
He, however, said he was “open” to giving operators an extension to demolish their fish pens.
Medina said the LLDA would meet with fish pen owners, fishermen’s groups and local government representative on March 16 to discuss an action plan, revise the 1999 zoning map of the lake, and reevaluate the Laguna de Bay’s carrying capacity.
LLDA records show that more than 300 corporations and individuals own fish pens in the lake.
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