THE Department of Agriculture (DA) is now crafting a program to ease any possible impact on fish supply and prices in Metro Manila as a result of the dismantling of fish pens in Laguna de Bay.
In a statement, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said that the DA and its line agency, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), will be actively involved in the dismantling effort.
Piñol said that 36 percent of Metro Manila’s fish supply comes from the fish pens of Laguna de Bay.
“The DA-BFAR must come up with a backup plan to ensure that during the period of the dismantling of the fish pens, sources of fish from other parts of the country—especially bangus (milkfish) and tilapia—would be able to fill the requirements of Metro Manila consumers,” Piñol said.
President Rodrigo Duterte had earlier ordered the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the DA to restore Laguna de Bay to its pristine state as in the days of national hero Jose Rizal.
“The 911-square kilometer lake, the biggest in the country and which Rizal mentioned extensively in his writings, is now a virtual maze of fish pens, which effectively choke the small fishermen,” Piñol said.
“The fish pens are owned by big politicians—governors and mayors—and police and army generals. All that is left for the small fishermen are the spaces in between the fish pens,” he said.
Piñol said that the Laguna de Bay fisheries program will be designed to ensure that those currently involved in fish pen operations will have an option on how to continue their business without crowding the lake with fish pens, while the small fishermen will be given the opportunity to also enjoy the bounties of a rehabilitated Laguna de Bay.
Duterte envisions Laguna de Bay as a vibrant economic zone. He wants it to showcase ecotourism by addressing the negative impact of watershed destruction, land conversion and pollution.
Environment Secretary Regina Paz Lopez plans to implement a massive reforestation program around Laguna de Bay and make sure that the lake no longer becomes the “septic tank” of the communities around it and the dumping pit of industrial wastes of companies located at the periphery of the lake.
Lopez said municipalities around the lake would be required to put up water treatment facilities so that the wastewater from the communities would be treated and cleaned before being released into the lake.