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Lanao del Sur execs, DENR to preserve Lake Lanao

Lake Lanao has been providing Maranaws a steady supply of freshwater fishes. Lanao del Sur - Official Website

COTABATO CITY, Philippines - The governor of Lanao del Sur and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) are now bound by an agreement to cooperate in preserving Lake Lanao, source of hydroelectricity feeding three-fourths of Mindanao’s daily power needs.

It was only Malacañang that originally has authority to manage and protect Lake Lanao --- touted as Asia’s largest and a powerful icon of the Maranaw tribe --- through a centralized set-up local officials and environmentalist opposed for decades for being so cumbersome and ineffective.

Salma Jayne Tamano, Lanao del Sur provincial information officer, on Saturday said Gov. Soraya Alonto-Adiong and the director of DENR for Region 10, Ruth Tawantawan, signed in Quezon City Wednesday an agreement on joint implementation of the Integrated Natural Resources and Environmental Management Program (INREMP) for Lake Lanao.

Malacañang has not devolved to the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), since its inception in 1990, the authority to manage the lake despite ARMM’s being covered with a constitutional charter, Republic Act 9054 that provides for the devolution to its regional government of the powers and functions of various line agencies, including the DENR.

The downstream flow of Lake Lanao, whose natural gravitational spouts drains at the coasts of Lanao del Norte and rivers criss-crossing Iligan City, propels several hydroelectric plants generating more than half of Mindanao’s daily power requirements.

The crafting of what was for ARMM officials a “landmark agreement” was witnessed by the chief executive of the autonomous region, Gov. Mujiv Hataman, DENR Secretary Gina Lopez and Abulkhayr Alonto, the newly-appointed chairman of the Mindanao Development Authority.

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The agreement enjoins the office of Adiong and the DENR-10 to cooperate in protecting Lake Lanao, a catch basin for rivers that spring from watersheds in hinterland Lanao del Sur towns, which are administratively under the autonomous region.

Hataman banned the cutting of trees in all tropical rainforests in Lanao del Sur in early 2012. The ban, still in place, also covers all forests in ARMM’s four other provinces, Maguindanao, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.

The office of Adiong and the DENR-10 will also jointly formulate and enforce watershed conservation programs needed to ensure the protection of Lake Lanao’s ecology.

For centuries, the lake has been providing Maranaws a steady supply of freshwater fishes. The daily catch of different fish species thriving in the lake drastically dwindled in recent years due to siltation and overfishing.

Maranaw political leaders and environmentalists have fought for the involvement of local residents in the protection and management of the lake for three decades.

“We are happy with this agreement. This is something we, Maranaws, ought to support,” said ARMM’s vice governor, Haroun Al-Rashid Lucman, an ethnic Maranaw who hails from Bayang town in Lanao del Sur.

Lucman, who earned a master’s degree on environmental governance from the Ateneo de Manila University, said there is a pressing need to preserve Lake Lanao based on indications that it can become nothing but a very shallow patch of useless water basin in about 30 years.

Lucman’s office has been spearheading for months now the planting of bamboos and forest trees in Lanao del Sur towns overlooking the lake as part of the ARMM’s initiative to address the concern.

Tamano said the provincial government will involve local sectors and cause-oriented groups in carrying out its mission to help the DENR protect Lake Lanao from deterioration.

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