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August 19, 2016

 

Manila to raise fish in huge tanks

 

By F.E. OLIMPO

 

 

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the dismantling of thousands of aquaculture structures in Laguna Lake, a move that could disrupt fish supply in Metro Manila, the country's capital.

 

During a two-day environmental summit held in Davao City in southern Philippines recently, the president said he wanted to restore the country's largest—and Southeast Asia's third-largest--freshwater lake to its "old pristine glory" and as an abundant source of fish and shellfish for small fishermen.

 

In his "state of the nation" address before a joint-session of the Senate and the House of Representatives in late July, Duterte decried the "sorry state" of the lake, also called Laguna de Bay, which he says crawls with unsightly fishpens, fishcages and other structures owned by "rich and influential people."

 

Scientists and environmentalists call it a "dying lake," attributing its current condition to heavy siltation and pollution. The lake, which has a shoreline of more than 285 kilometres, "serves as a huge waste sink for solid and liquid waste coming from households, cropland areas, industries, livestock and poultry production as well as fishery activities", according to a study for a graduate programme of the Maryland University in the US.

 

More than 2,000 fish pens and fish cages operate in the lake, growing mostly milkfish, tilapia, carps and shrimp.

 

 At the Davao City summit, the president instructed her environment and natural resources secretary to immediately cancel the permits of all aquaculture activities in the lake in preparation for its environmental rehabilitation.

 

In a radio interview, agriculture secretary Manny Pinol says the sudden dismantling of all fishery structures in the lake could disrupt fish supply in Metro Manila. The lake, he says, supplies 36% of the daily fish requirements of the metropolitan capital, home to about 12 million people.

 

The 900-square-kilometre Laguna Lake borders on Metro Manila and the provinces of Rizal and Laguna. It accounts for 17% of the national fisheries production, 10% of the national production for aquaculture and 44% of the national production for municipal fisheries or fishing done in inland and coastal areas.

 

Pinol suggests a gradual phase-out of the fishpens and fishcages to allow the Department of Agriculture time to build huge fish tanks on the banks of the 27-km=long Marikina River where milkfish, tilapia, crustaceans, mollusks and other seafood can be raised to make up for the supply to be lost from Laguna Lake.

 

Raising fish in concrete fish tanks is feasible and doable. It has been tried and tested in California in the US, he says.

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