First of two parts
Strategically located in the country’s center of urban and industrial development, Laguna de Bay is the largest inland body of water in the Philippines and the second largest lake in Southeast Asia. It has a surface area of 900 km2 or 90,000 hectares, which is larger than the land areas of Singapore or Metro Manila and larger than the surface area of Lake Geneva. The lake is located along Metro Manila, Laguna and Rizal provinces, parts of Batangas, Cavite and Quezon. With a maximum length of 41 km, maximum width of 36 km, and an average depth of 2.8 m, Laguna Lake is the main source of water, fish, aquaculture, agriculture food commodities, and industrial raw materials and manufactured goods. Furthermore, according to the 2005 census of NSO, the lake has a watershed population of 13.2 million.
Immortalized in the artwork of Amorsolo and in the poetry of Jose Rizal, the Laguna de Bay and its surrounding environs claim an important position in our nation’s collective memory. However, its beauty and significance to the Filipinos are not simply a thing of the past; indeed Laguna de Bay is a living lake which continues to nourish this nation, providing water for us to drink as well as much food to our tables.
The present condition
Storms, typhoons, rains, floodwaters, mud, silt, pollution, deforestation, illegal logging in uplands, abuse of the lake, and the rapid urban expansion, generally growing outwards from the Metro Manila area towards the Laguna Lake region greatly affect Laguna de Bay and its environs. The Calabarzon sub-region (the area which the lake occupies) now houses 15% of the nation’s population as it has become the catch basin to Metro Manila’s population and urbanization over-spill. The possible consequences of this rapid swelling of population include a food and water shortage, the increase of traffic congestion and environmental degradation.
Despite rapid urbanization and suburbanization, Laguna de Bay still flourishes as a center for agricultural and aquacultural activities. These activities include the growing of rice, animal husbandry, duck-raising, fishing and fish farming. Laguna de Bay has a production capacity of Manila’s freshwater fish. Further pollution of the lake poses a major threat to this significant food supply.
Another resource threatened by continued pollution is the water itself. This is perhaps one of the most critical issues facing our nation, as it is quite simple to understand that water is the lifeblood of any human settlement. If current trends continue we may not have enough drinking water in Metro Manila in 7 years. It is projected that within the next 30 years the entire nation will experience a lack of potable water due primarily to pollution of our water resources. Laguna de Bay serves as perhaps the single most important potential future source of potable water for the Manila Bay Metropolitan Region and Calabarzon.
Because of its strategic location, the lake has many water transport potentials. The most accessible and most commonly used thoroughfare is the South Luzon Expressway (SLE). Traffic is bottlenecked at SLE, though this serves as the main route for vehicles going to and from the South, Calabarzon to Metro Manila. Improvements in the area would relieve much of the regional congestion as well as provide opportunities to access many sites of potential interest to tourists and investors, including the Morong church in Rizal (one of the oldest churches in the Philippines), the Angono Artists’ house, the Daranak/Batlang Falls, the Woodcarver’s town in Paete, man-made reservoirs, the Hot Springs of Los Baños, Pagsanjan Falls, and other tourist destinations in the region.
Waterfront development: The vision
The objective of waterfront development is to engender an appreciation of the water that sustains us. Palafox Associates envision a lakefront of walkable and bikeable linear parks and promenades for lakeshore communities to enjoy its shores in hopes that such development will encourage inhabitants and visitors to turn towards the lake as proud custodians.
The rehabilitation and development of Laguna de Bay proceeds with certain essential goals in mind including the integration of the objectives of governmental and non-governmental agencies, such as the Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA), communities, business, local chapters of government, industries and institutions. Together we strive towards a common goal of sustainable development and the future livelihood of the Laguna de Bay region. Considering the opportunities, the worsening present condition and our continuing future dependence on Laguna Lake, it is not only desirable to improve the conditions of Laguna Lake; it is imperative.
Part 2 will appear next Thursday