By Anella Tayao-Juego
The Muntinlupa City government expects around 1,300 residents to lose their sources of income due to the impending demolition of illegal fish pens on Laguna de Bay, which was ordered by President Duterte in his recent State of the Nation Address (Sona).
Facing this scenario, local officials have started talks with the fishing community to explore alternative forms of livelihood. The demolitions are expected to have an impact on villagers in Tunasan, Poblacion, Putatan, Bayanan, Alabang, Cupang, Buli and Sucat.
Public information office head Tez Navarro on Thursday said that, as instructed by Mayor Jaime Fresnedi, the city’s Lake Management Office (LMO) and the Department of Agriculture-Extension Services Office have begun meeting with residents employed by fish pen operators “to assess their needs for intervention.”
Asked if this included financial assistance, Navarro said it would depend on individual assessments. The local government is ready to provide fishing tools, such as gill nets, for those will continue to rely on the lake for income, while their wives may be trained on food processing, for example, said Navarro.
LMO chief Ting Niefes said fish pens in the freshwater lake which fall under Muntinlupa’s jurisdiction occupy a total area of about 2,000 hectares. But Niefes said the figure only refers to the legal structures, while Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA) has the data regarding illegal fish pens.
The dismantling of illegal fish pens in the 90,000-hectare lake started on Tuesday in San Pablo, Laguna, with the removal of two 50-hectare structures owned by Seven Eleven Fishing Corp. The Inquirer earlier reported that the pens went through several changes of ownership over the years without proper LLDA documents.
In his Sona, President Duterte ordered Environment Secretary Gina Lopez to initiate the rehabilitation of the lake by clearing it of illegal structures and turning it into an ecotourism zone.