The environment department aims commencing next month operations against environmental degradation plaguing 90,000-hectare Laguna de Bay, the country's largest lake which President Rodrigo Duterte wants rehabilitated.
"We want to clean up that lake beginning this January," Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Sec. Gina Lopez said Thursday (Dec. 15) during a press conference in Metro Manila.
Addressing water pollution and dismantling illegal private aquaculture facilities there will be part of the clean-up, she noted.
She said DENR also planned helping reforest the watershed hosting Laguna de Bay to address erosion there.
"About four tons of silt slip into that lake yearly so this water body is becoming shallower," she said.
Lopez is optimistic DENR's planned moves will enable Laguna de Bay to truly function again as an economic driver and make this a showcase for social justice.
Such transformation will benefit the poor there including small fisherfolk and their families, she noted.
"We'll pay attention to them and figure out programs they can benefit from," she said.
Dismantling illegal private aquaculture facilities in Laguna de Bay would enable small fisherfolk to fish there again, she said.
According to Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA), the agency having jurisdiction over Laguna de Bay, the lake accounts for some 70 percent of milkfish or 'bangus' supply in Metro Manila.
Laguna de Bay is also a transport route and source of water for domestic and other purposes, noted LLDA.
LLDA's assessment indicates Laguna de Bay is reeling from decades of siltation, alien specie invasion and other environmental threats, however.
Aquaculture facilities also proliferated there over the years.
DENR said Laguna de Bay's carrying capacity allows aquaculture in up to 9,000 hectares only.
Fish pens and cages for aquaculture are occupying 12,375 hectares of the lake's surface water, however, so facilities covering the excess 3,375 hectares must be dismantled, noted DENR.
Citing LLDA data, DENR said Laguna de Bay had 3,246 registered and unregistered aquaculture facilities consisting of 358 fish pens and 2,890 fish cages belonging to corporations and individuals.
To help decongest and heal Laguna de Bay, DENR Undersecretary Art Valdez said LLDA already decided imposing from January 2017 a one-year moratorium on issuance and renewal of permits for such aquaculture facilities.
"Operators concerned will still be allowed to harvest their produce but are encouraged to self-dismantle afterwards," he said.
He also cited need to rationalize water use in Laguna de Bay through zoning that define areas for aquaculture facilities.
"We must put order in that lake," he said.
Valdez heads the National Anti-Environmental Crime Task Force that conducted demolition operations in a 13-hectare illegal fish pen in Laguna de Bay, noted DENR
The demolition aimed sending the message that operators must voluntarily demolish their illegal aquaculture facilities, DENR added.
Source: Philippines News Agency