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DECONGESTING LAGUNA LAKE

1,000 ha of fish pens first to go on April 1

/ 01:56 AM March 20, 2017

SAN PEDRO CITY—Thirty corporate and individually-owned fish pens, occupying a total area of 1,000 hectares in Laguna Lake, would be the first to be demolished as the government opens up the lake, according to a list issued by the Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA) on Friday.

LLDA issued an action plan containing the list of fish pens to be demolished starting on April 1.

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Each fish pen occupies an average area of 40 ha.

Leading the list are fish pens owned by White Sand Fishing Corp., Ryan Fishing Corp. and Aquario Corp. all in Taguig City. They owe the government millions of pesos in fish pen fees, according to the LLDA.

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The other fish pens are in the towns of Cardona and Binangonan, Rizal province, and the cities of Calamba and San Pedro, Laguna province.

Jaime Medina, LLDA general manager, said the agency was preparing action plans that would keep fish pen operators informed. “We don’t want surprises,” he said.

Aside from fish pens on the list, the LLDA plans to dismantle smaller fish cages occupying another 1,000 ha of the lake.

Criteria

Engineer Emiterio Hernandez, of the LLDA’s Environmental Regulatory Department, said the government ranked fish pens for demolition based on the following criteria—without permits, with violations of the zoning map and unpaid fees.

Since Feb. 1, the LLDA has been been demolishing abandoned structures, clearing 5 to 6 ha of space in the lake daily. It also gave operators until March 31 to volunteer to demolish their structures.

Medina said LLDA officials met again with fish pen operators on Thursday in Los Baños, Laguna, to discuss the government’s plans.

Quoting the operators, he said the owners offered to voluntarily demolish up to 20 percent of their structures by April 1. But Medina said the offer should not carry a condition that would allow parts of the fish pens to stay.

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Not total ban

By law, only 10 percent of any body of water is allowed for use in aquaculture. But Medina said the limit is “arbitrary” and Laguna Lake’s carrying capacity would determine the area that would be devoted to fish cultivation.

Medina said the one-year moratorium on fish pens was not a total ban on an industry that supplied 57,000 metric tons of bangus and other fishes in 2016 alone.

Fish pens of not more than one ha would be spared from demolition.

He admitted, however, that the LLDA lost P50 million in revenue when it stopped issuing fish pen permits this year.

The government spends P500,000 to demolish a 50-ha fish pen, which is an expense that may not be sustainable.

“It’s safe to say that we might run out of funds but we don’t worry,” Medina said.

New system

Medina said a team of scientists would determine if the lake’s carrying capacity allowed fish cultivation and other aquaculture businesses.

The LLDA, he said, was studying the forming of cooperatives of fishermen and a new system of regulating fish pens.

“We’re doing all of these to ensure that small fishermen will benefit,” Medina said.

The demolition of fish pens in the lake had been promised by President Duterte who, during his campaign, narrated how disgusted he was after seeing how congested the lake was while he was on a plane.

Environment Secretary Gina Lopez had vowed to heed Mr. Duterte’s instructions to clear up the lake.

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