MANILA – The agriculture department has begun implementing a nationwide project aimed at rejuvenating major lakes and rivers, starting with the seeding of 5 million fingerlings in Laguna Lake to boost fish production
“Napabayaan na natin freshwater fish sa freshwater areas natin. Wala nang isda kaya nagkaka-pressure sa palaisdaan at fishing ground. Masyado na nadedeplete kasi wala na makuhang isda [We’ve neglected the freshwater fish in our freshwater areas, There’s no more fish, so the pressure is mounting in the fishing grounds. The stock has been severely depleted],” explained Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol of the initiative.
The re-stocking is part of the five-year project BASIL, or Balik Sigla sa Ilog at Lawa (English: Returning Life to the Rivers and Lakes).
At least P15.7 million has been allocated for Laguna Lake, a budget which also includes the distribution of gill nets, and the purchase of motorized bancas and a patrol boat.
Besides Laguna Lake, similar interventions are planned for six other lakes: Taal Lake, Lanao Lake, Lake Sebu, Buluan Lake, Lake Mainit and Naujan Lake.
Eight rivers are also covered by the program: the Cagayan River Basin, Abra River System, Agusan River Basin, Bicol River Basin, Pampanga River Basin, Mindanao River Basin, Agusan River Basin and Agno River Basic.
Overall, the DA plans to seed 210 million prawn, milkfish and snakehead fingerlings by 2020, and Agriculture chief Piñol said the expected production boost would help reduce poverty.
“The first step to address poverty is to make food available. The program will make fish available to ordinary Filipino families. We have returned the fingerlings to the rivers and lakes, and access for fishermen in Laguna Lake who’ve experience reduced fish catches due to illegal fishing. Project BASIL will be a big help,” said Piñol.
For fisherman Alex Quila, the initiative is a big deal for them because now they have a boat to patrol the area and guard against illegal fishers.
The Laguna Lake Development Authority is also urging the public to reduce the dumping of domestic waste in the lake, which they tagged as one of the causes of fish kills.
According to Lennie Santos Borja,department manager at the LLDA’s resource management and development department, “the self- purifying capacity of the lake” is hampered by the fact that “some rivers which drain into the lake are heavily polluted.”
An example: phosphate way beyond the acceptable limit, caused by certain industries that empty high concentrations of phosphates.
Meanwhile, Sen. Cynthia Villar said projects are also being implemented in areas such as the Pasig River and Manila Bay to prevent pollution.
“We are constructing toilets to prevent open defecation and promoting waste management and recycling of kitchen and garden waste,” said Villar.
In a 2008 ruling, the Supreme Court gave 13 government agencies 10 years to clean Manila Bay of trash and other pollutants.
With little to show from these agencies, Villar said lawmakers could soon require those tagged by the high court to submit progress reports.