One single step toward reviving Laguna de Bay
We, the fisherfolk under the alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya-Pilipinas) express our full support for the government’s drive to dismantle fishpens in Laguna de Bay, the country’s largest lake, as this will benefit the small fishers who have been deprived of their traditional, common fishing ground for decades. The lake has been occupied by wide fishpens mainly owned by big corporations and private entities, to the prejudice of small fishermen.
Government itself admits that the lake has exceeded its carrying capacity for aquaculture, which should only be 10 percent of its size. Indeed, wide fishpens in Laguna de Bay have caused the congestion of the once open fishing waters enjoyed by small, local fisherfolk. Worse, there have been many reports of intimidation, harassment and killings of small fishermen by armed fishpen-security guards.
Soon after assuming office, President Duterte has directly ordered the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to immediately cause the unconditional removal of the wide fishpens in Laguna de Bay. For its small fishers and residents, this is a welcome step toward the revival of the dying lake. Although the demolition of wide fishpens has yet to materialize, all fishpens in Laguna de Bay will be considered illegal starting this year, after the DENR has ordered the cancellation of all fish pen permits.
And although we welcome government’s initiative to dismantle the wide fishpens, we oppose the DENR plan to convert the lake into an ecotourism destination. The dismantling of fishpens should not lead to the lake’s total conversion from a productive fishing ground into a center of moneymaking enterprises benefiting only a few developers and businessmen. The antifishpen campaign should advance a genuine, propeople rehabilitation program that will restore the lake’s natural wealth for the benefit of small fisherfolk and the people who directly and indirectly depend on its resources.
Aside from wide fishpens, there are thousands of industries and factories that have been irreverently dumping their industrial and chemical wastes into the lake for so many years. The dumping should stop.
There is also the Napindan Hydraulic Control System which prevents the entry of saltwater from Manila Bay into the lake. Saltwater is essential to maintaining the ecological balance that a brackish lake needs to provide nutrients for fish and other marine life. But the purpose of Napindan system is to desalinate the brackish lake and so convert it into a lake of pure, fresh water for commercial and industrial use. The absence of saltwater in the lake would be detrimental to fish production and, worse, to the livelihood of the small fishers.Getting rid of wide fishpens is just one small, single step in the journey of a thousand miles toward the revival of Laguna de Bay.
FERNANDO HICAP, chair, Pamalakaya-Pilipinas, [email protected]
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