OpinYon Rizal


Maximizing the full potential of the lake

Jan 30, 2024, 6:01 AM
Fernan Angeles

Fernan Angeles


Pushing further the government’s food security program, the Department of Agriculture (DA) hinted at reviving the fishing industry in the country’s largest freshwater basin by providing all the help it could give to the local fishermen.

“We aim to produce more food at lower prices. For example, bring back bangus prices to P50-P70 per kilo,” Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu-Laurel Jr. said in a press statement.

“Maximizing the aquaculture potential of Laguna Lake is essential to achieving that goal. If we can add more capacity, then let’s do it.”

Previously, fish pen operators and aquaculture associations in the Laguna de Bay region asked Tiu-Laurel’s help to address the increasing mortality of fingerlings in fish pens, minimal introduction of salt water that is helpful in bangus production, and the reintroduction of fresh water.

Fish pen operator groups claim the last time saltwater was allowed to flow into the lake was in 2022. They said the annual opening of the floodgates to allow fresh water is not happening.

Data collated from the Laguna Lake Development Authority’s website showed that the 940-square-kilometer lake produces as much as 90,000 tons of freshwater fish a year and provides livelihood to around 13,000 fishermen.

LLDA’s Crucial Role

According to Tiu-Laurel, LLDA (a quasi-governmental agency that has jurisdiction over the freshwater lake) would play a crucial role in the administration’s target of ensuring sufficient and affordable food for Filipinos.

Citing the need for a concerted effort in achieving its goal, the Agriculture chief said that he would arrange a meeting with the LLDA to discuss plans and programs for Laguna Lake, along with the guidelines for the opening of the flood gates, that is crucial for the introduction of fresh and saltwater needed for a more productive aquaculture industry.

The LLDA is governed by a board that consists of the secretaries of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the Trade and Industry and Economic planning departments, as well as representatives from the Office of the President and the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority.

Checking Water Quality

He also instructed the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) to test the water quality of the lake every quarter, as well as undertake a study on the capacity of Laguna Lake, which according to web-based sources scored a low C– in water quality.

Aside from poor water quality, studies also manifested heavy phosphate and coliform loading, and a failing F for the state of its fisheries, with major problems in terms of invasive species, overfishing, and declining natural food sources.

It contained high concentrations of copper and zinc (both approximately 6-7 times higher than levels typically found in uncontaminated freshwater sediment), together with lesser concentrations of vanadium.

Over a year ago, Filipino scientists also found the presence of microplastics in the surface water of Laguna de Bay, which they attributed to plastic pollution in various areas facing the lake.

Lake’s Multi Usage

As a multi-use water resource, Laguna Bay also serves as a source of irrigation water, industrial cooling water, hydroelectric power generation, a transport route, a source of animal feed, a venue for recreation, a source of fish supply, a source of domestic water supply and most recently as host to floating solar farms.

In 1999, LLDA implemented a zoning and management plan that allowed 10,000 hectares of Laguna Lake for fish pen operations, 5,000 hectares for fish cages as well as areas for fish sanctuary, navigational lanes and open fishing.

White goby, mudfish, ayungin, bangus, catfish, kanduli, tilapia, and the common carp are the commercially important fish found or grown in Laguna Lake.

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