EDITORIAL - Endangered lake

EDITORIAL - Endangered lake

(The Philippine Star) - May 13, 2018 - 12:00am

It’s been nearly a year to the day Roy Cimatu took over as secretary of environment and natural resources. Among his promises upon assuming the post was a thorough cleanup of water resources, particularly the country’s largest lake, Laguna de Bay. Cimatu vowed to continue dismantling illegal fish pens in the lake – a campaign that was started by his predecessor Gina Lopez.

The approaching rainy season will show if the promise was pursued and some gains achieved. Poorly regulated fish pen operations led to heavy siltation in the lake. Large tracts of the lake have also been reclaimed by property developers and even by local government units, and the reclamation continues.

The area around the lake is a natural floodplain, and the reclamation has caused serious flooding in the lakeside areas of Metro Manila and neighboring provinces. During powerful typhoons in recent years, the floods have taken up to three months to fully subside in several areas. The lake is also tapped as a source of freshwater for Metro Manila, but this has been affected by heavy siltation from the fish pens.

With several local government units having jurisdiction around the lake, development plans need coordination. There are reports that some LGUs may tap the lake for hydropower in their jurisdictions. How will this affect the lake ecosystem? Laguna de Bay performs numerous vital functions not only for lakeside communities. It is a major food source for Metro Manila and neighboring areas, but fish production must be sustainable. Lake activities must also be managed efficiently for flood control.

Even with the government focused on cleaning up Boracay island and its waters mostly for tourism, sufficient attention must be given to one of the most important bodies of water in this archipelago. Aquatic experts have warned that Laguna de Bay, Southeast Asia’s third largest freshwater lake, is endangered. With urgent action, the lake can still be saved.

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