Laguna de Bay fishers laud fish-pen moratorium, ask to make it permanent
Manila, Philippines – The fisherfolk group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA-Pilipinas) on Saturday lauded the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) for its planned moratorium on issuance of permits for fish pen operators in Laguna de Bay starting 2017, saying this will open the 90-thousand hectare brackish water to municipal and small-scale fishermen who have long been deprived of their traditional and communal fishing zones.
“This is a good start because absence of wide fish pens will open the lake for the utilization of small fishermen which for many years has been congested due to fish pen proliferation owned by big commercial fishing firms and powerful individuals,” Fernando Hicap, PAMALAKAYA Chairperson said in a statement.
PAMALAKAYA said the moratorium will also unwind the lake from degradation caused by chemical-based pellet feeds used to culture fish.
“Aside from thousands of factories situated along the lake which irreverently dump chemical wastes into the water, the use of feed-additives and chemicals to culture fish is one of the main factors why Laguna de Bay has reached its dying stage,” Hicap said.
But the fisherfolk group said one year of moratorium is not enough for the fisherfolk to recover and maximize the abundance of the lake. The fisherfolk have been deprived of their collective rights on their traditional fishing grounds for decades, now is the time for them to regain and acknowledge their collective control on the lake permanently.
“The moratorium of fish pens should be for good. We do not totally reject fish pens in Laguna de Bay, but it should comply with what the lake can only hold and on top of it, fisherfolk organizations and cooperatives should be the ones who will manage the fish pens,” Hicap said.
The lake’s capacity only allows 9,000 hectares of fish pens or 10% of its size. But current data from the Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA) shows 22,500 hectares of the lake have been occupied by big fish pen operators and private individuals.
“DENR’s dismantling of wide fish pens in Laguna de Bay is a welcome development for the lake’s rehabilitation since various government projects in the past have destroy the lake’s natural ecosystem affecting the livelihood of the fisherfolk who suffered from fish catch depletion and fishing ground congestion.”
“DENR should not only limit its moratorium by one year or a couple, they should make it stable because it is for the betterment of the millions of fisherfolk and other residents residing and depending on the lake, contrary to fish pen operators’ claim that numbers of fisherfolk might loss livelihood if fish pens would be suspended. Fishers opt to traditional fishing even as fish catch depletes rather than being care taker of private fish pens earning paltry wages, they just don’t have a choice since there’s no more space to sail,” Hicap ended. ###