THE fisherfolk group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya (Pamakaya-Pilipinas) on Saturday lauded the plan by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) for a moratorium on the issuance of permits for fishpen operators in Laguna de Bay starting next year.
The group said the move will open the 90-thousand hectare brackish water to municipal and small-scale fishermen who have long been deprived of their traditional and communal fishing zones.
“This is a good start because absence of wide fish pens will open the lake for the utilization of small fishermen which for many years has been congested due to fish pen proliferation owned by big commercial fishing firms and powerful individuals,” Fernando Hicap, Pamakaya chairperson, said in a statement.
The moratorium will also unwind the lake from degradation caused by chemical-based pellet feeds used to culture fish, Pamalakaya added.
“Aside from thousands of factories situated along the lake which irreverently dump chemical wastes into the water, the use of feed-additives and chemicals to culture fish is one of the main factors why Laguna de Bay has reached its dying stage,” Hicap said.
But the fisherfolk group said one year of moratorium is not enough for them to recover and maximize the abundance of the lake. The fishermen have been deprived of their collective rights on their traditional fishing grounds for decades, but now is the time for them to regain and acknowledge their collective control on the lake permanently.
“The moratorium of fishpens should be for good. We do not totally reject fishpens in Laguna de Bay, but it should comply with what the lake can only hold and on top of it, fisherfolk organizations and cooperatives should be the ones who will manage the fish pens,” Hicap added.
The lake can accommodate only 9,000 hectares of fishpens or 10 percent of its size. However, current data from the Laguna Lake Development Authority shows 22,500 hectares of the lake being occupied by big fishpen operators and private individuals.
Pamalakaya said that DENR’s dismantling of wide fishpens in Laguna de Bay is a welcome development for the lake’s rehabilitation since various government projects in the past have destroy the lake’s natural ecosystem affecting the livelihood of the fisherfolk who suffered from fish catch depletion and fishing ground congestion.