PiAol orders BFAR: Ensure stable supply of fish in markets

With the directive issued by President Duterte to dismantle big fish pens at Laguna Lake, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel "Manny" PiAol has ordered the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) to ensure steady supply of fish in the market.

"While the order to dismantle the fish pens was directed at the DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) secretary, the DA and its line agency - the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources - will be actively involved in the effort because of the order's impact on the fish supply of Metro Manila," PiAol said in a statement.

"DA-BFAR must come up with a back-up 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 and tilapia - would be able to fill up the requirements of Metro Manila consumers," he added.

The 911-square kilometer Laguna Lake is the largest lake in the Philippines and one of the largest in Southeast Asia.

In view of its multiplicity of uses and benefits, its basin is the most important, dynamic and among the fastest-growing economic bases in the country. It has become the catch basin to Metro Manila's population and urbanization/industrialization overspill.

As the region has developed, the lake has suffered increasing levels of agricultural, industrial and domestic waste water pollution.

The possible consequences of the rapid swelling of population include food and water shortage, worsening traffic congestion and environmental degradation, thus significantly affecting Laguna de Bay and its environs.

Problems such as pollution and waste primarily from domestic and agricultural sources; multiple and often conflicting water uses; vulnerability of lake shore settlements and developments to flood hazards and related health and economic risks, and indecision over resettlement; poorly regulated developments on the shore land, and critical watersheds inclusive of tenurial constraints, database management and monitoring, and fragmented utility infrastructure developments, including silting and development regulations of these investments contribute to the degradation of the lake.

Pinol said the fish pens of Laguna Lake or Laguna de Bay are the sources of 36 percent of the fish requirements of Metro Manila and the dismantling of the fish pens will have an adverse effect on the supply and price of fish.

"I have never really liked the smell and taste of fish from Laguna de Bay. They stink with the smell of mud. It is called 'amoy gilik' by people around the lake. Given the shortage of fish supply, however, Metro Manilans have long accepted the Laguna de Bay fish as part of their table fare," he lamented.

In his order to dismantle big fish pens at the Laguna Lake, President Duterte said he wants it to be "transformed into a vibrant economic zone showcasing ecotourism by addressing the negative impact of the watershed destruction, land conversion and pollution."

The move is also to develop and manage huge portions of the Laguna Lake to give out new entitlements, with small fishermen having the priority.

As of June 30, 2016, there were 357 registered and unregistered fish pen owners operating at the Laguna de Bay, according to the Laguna Lake Development Authority.

DENR Secretary Regina Lopez earlier had said she would implement massive reforestation program around the lake and make sure that Laguna de Bay no longer becomes the "septic tank" of the communities around it and a dumping pit of industrial wastes of companies located at the periphery of the lake.

Source: Daily Tribune