House bill tapping Laguna de Bay as water-source nixed

House bill tapping Laguna de Bay as water-source nixed

Manila, Philippines – The national fishers’ group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA) expressed opposition against the House Bill seeking to declare Laguna de Bay as primary source of potable water, saying the country’s largest brackish water lake should remain as fishing grounds that provide livelihood for at least 14 million fisherfolk and coastal residents across the lake.

House Bill 737 filed by Rep. Rufino Biazon is seeking to tap the 90-thousand-hectare Laguna de Bay as primary source of water. It tasked the Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA) to “formulate and implement a program to ensure that the quality of water in the lake shall pass the standards of water sources intended for such use”. The HB 737 is set to have an initial deliberation led by the House Committee on Metro Manila Development tomorrow.

In a statement, PAMALAKAYA Chairperson and former Anakpawis Party-list solon Fernando Hicap urged the Congress to “scrutinize” the bill as it would mean displacement of fisherfolks from their livelihood, and further ecological degradation of Laguna de Bay.

“Laguna de Bay should remain as fishing grounds sustaining the livelihood of millions of fisherfolk and its coastal population, not for commercial use that would transform its fisheries and agricultural use,” Ronnel Arambulo, PAMALAKAYA Coordinator in Rizal province said in a statement.

Arambulo, a resident fisherman in Binangonan, Rizal, laments that Laguna de Bay degraded throughout the decades through government’s past and present “privatization projects”.

PAMALAKAYA said the Maynilad Water Services Inc. (MWSI) is already “raking profit” out of the Laguna de Bay by extracting potable water.

Through its filtration facility located in Brgy. Putatan, Muntinlupa City, the MWSI has been extracting 150 million liters per day of potable water supplying to more than 1 million of its customers in the Western part of the National Capital Region, including the cities of Makati, Pasay, Paranaque, Las Pinas, and Muntinlupa, as well as towns of Bacoor, Cavite City, Imus, Kawit, Rosario, and Noveleta in the province of Cavite.

“A water concessionaire greedily consumes water of Laguna de Bay for its super-profit at the cost of productive fishing grounds of small fishers and people engaged in fish culture activities,” Arambulo said.

PAMALAKAYA said that primary reason for degradation of Laguna de Bay is the construction of the Napindan Hydraulic Control Structure (NHCS) which blocks saltwater from Manila Bay via Pasig River. The purpose is to desalinate the lake to keep it purified for commercial and industrial purposes.

“The construction of a hydraulic structure harms the lake because naturally, saltwater is essential to a brackish lake to keep its ecological balance that gives nutrients to the fish and other lake species. In effect, the existence of the Napindan channel put the lake at its dying stage,” Arambulo lamented.

PAMALAKAYA calls on the LLDA to terminate its deal with the Maynilad which was approved during then-President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

“We urge the LLDA to stick to its mandate in rehabilitating Laguna de Bay and bring back its traditional orientation as fishing grounds,” ended Arambulo. ###

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