Fisherfolk group opposes P18.7 lake rehabilitation project

30 Sep

Laguna de Bay is the largest lake in the Philippines and the primary source of livelihood for residents surrounding the lake (Photo taken from http://www.dredgingtoday.com)


[This article is originally published in UPIU.com]
The mentor suggested to make the lead stronger by noting that around 450,000 families will be displaced because of this project. It can also become reader-friendly by making the sentences and paragraphs shorter. Interview with a couple of families could also make the story powerful.

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Quezon City, Philippines – Around 200 members of a militant fisher folk organization gathered in front of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ (DENR) office earlier today to oppose the 18.7 billion peso rehabilitation project of the Laguna Lake.

Laguna Lake or Laguna de Bay is the largest lake in Asia that covers more than 90,000 hectares, providing fisheries livelihood for the residents surrounding the lake.

The rehabilitation project will be funded by Belgian company Baggerwerken Decloedt en Zoon (BDC). It was originally questioned by local officials for not undergoing a public bidding as required by Republic Act 9184 or the Government Procurement Act.

This was reviewed by the Department of Justice (DOJ) under the supervision ofSecretary Leila de Lima and in her review, she has affirmed the opinion of former Justice Secretary and Solicitor General Alberto Agra that the rehabilitation project of Laguna Lake is not a “midnight deal” of the Arroyo government and it is in fact, not covered by the Procurement Act.

De Lima explained that section four of R.A 9184 clearly states that “any treaty or international or executive agreement affecting the subject matter of this Act to which the Philippine government is signatory shall be observed.”

She added that the loan granted to the country may be considered as an executive agreement between two countries since BDC is covered by a credit insurer agency that is authorized to represent the government of Belgium.

Pamalakaya (Pambansang Lakas ng Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (National Federation of Small Fisherfolk Organization in the Philippines)) vice chairperson Salvador France said in an interview that the said multi-billion peso rehabilitation project of the lake is not a genuine rehabilitation project but an “anti-fisher folk, anti-people and anti- environmental project.”

He explained that it is against the national interest for it will only pave the way for privatization of Laguna Lake.

He said that it will only transform the area into an industrial and commercial center by building high-rise condominiums in Taguig-Muntinlupa area and construction of an international airport in Rizal. He also said that it would also mean the destruction of fish pens, fish cages and the eventual displacement of small fisher folk surrounding the lake.

He added that the most tragic of all would be the demolition of more than 450,000 families and relocation to areas with limited employment opportunities.

France explained that genuine rehabilitation can be done by opening the Napindan channel in Rizal. He said that opening the Napindan marine channel will flow the salt water to Laguna Lake which eventually will help bring more marine species in the lake.

According to him, only six out of the original 25 species of fish are left in the lake and most of them are already cultured or exported from other fresh waters and bred in the lake. Another part of rehabilitation would be cleaning up the lake and implementing proper waste management of industrial factories that regularly dispose their waste into the lake.

Right now, the group intends to continue “exposing and opposing the multi-billion rehabilitation project by means of massive information dissemination on the impact of dredging, building more organizations, expanding alliances and networking to generate support and conducting mass actions at the local, lake-wide and national levels, ” said France.

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