Fisherfolk groups oppose plan to tap water from Laguna Lake

Published by rudy Date posted on March 2, 2009

MANILA, Philippines – Fisherfolk organizations opposed yesterday the plan of Maynilad Water Services Inc. to tap Laguna Lake as water source.

Fernando Hicap, national chairman of the Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) and convenor of the multisectoral Save Laguna Lake Movement (SLLM), said Maynilad’s plan is “extremely dangerous to the lake environment,” as it indicates “privatization and conversion to the highest level.”

Hicap said the proposal of Maynilad to abstract 300 million liters per day (MLD) of water from Laguna Lake would automatically pave the way for the closure of the Napindan hydraulic control system, preventing the entry of salt water from Manila Bay.

He said fish species in Laguna Lake requires the mixing of salt and fresh water to spawn and survive.

“Allowing Maynilad to transform Laguna Lake into a water source for Metro Manila and nearby provinces will deliver the death blow to the already fragile lake,” he said.

“Maynilad’s plan is like a death certificate to Laguna Lake, killing not only the livelihood of more than 500,000 people engaged in fish capture and fish culture, but also endangering the fish supply and the fish needs of millions of people in the National Capital Region, Laguna and Rizal,” he added.

Despite the present sorry state of Laguna Lake as Southeast Asia’s second largest lake, Pamalakaya and SLLM said it is still capable of producing at least 50,000 metric tons of fish per year, enough to meet the fish requirements of at least 10 million people.

Last Thursday, the Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA) announced that Maynilad was seeking its approval to abstract water from the lake amid a “forthcoming shortage” of potable water in the western portion of Metro Manila.

In a statement, the LLDA said Maynilad is asking to abstract 300 MLD of water from Laguna Lake to address the impending water scarcity.

The LLDA said Maynilad, the authorized water concessionaire of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System for the western part of Metro Manila, is eyeing to tap Laguna Lake as a source of domestic water for residents of Muntinlupa, Parañaque, Las Piñas, and Bacoor in Cavite.

“Being the largest lake in the Philippines, strategically located within the heart of Calabarzon, Laguna Lake is the most viable source of domestic water for the west zone, according to the study conducted by the Netherlands government for LLDA,” the agency said.

The LLDA said the study on the sustainable development of the Laguna de Bay environment, which was conducted five years ago, revealed that eventually, Angat Dam “could no longer meet the demands of the burgeoning Metro Manila population.”

Under Republic Act 4850, the LLDA said it is empowered to issue permits for the use and abstraction of lake water.

The agency said only 70 percent of the total customers of Maynilad are being supplied with water, while the rest remain “un-serviced” or without decent water supply.

“Water shortage is undeniably felt now in the area,” it said.

Under the Maynilad proposal, the LLDA said the water concessionaire would take over the operation of the water treatment plant in Putatan, Muntinlupa.

At present, the LLDA said the treatment plant abstracts 180,000 cubic meters of lake water per month and supplies it to a subdivision in Ayala Alabang for domestic use after undergoing a series of treatments.

The LLDA said Maynilad plans to initially abstract 100 MLD of lake water for the west zone by 2010, and eventually 200 MLD by 2011.

Maynilad supposedly targets to complete its abstraction of 300 MLD of lake water by 2014.

LLDA data showed there are 24 major tributaries around the Laguna Lake, including the Pagsanjan river system that accounts for 35 percent of the total water inflow of the lake.

Laguna Lake, meanwhile, spills over 150 cubic meters of water per second to Manila Bay through the Pasig River, except from March to May when the lake water level is lower than that of Manila Bay at 13 million cubic meters per day.

LLDA general manager Edgardo Manda has appealed to the cities and municipalities surrounding Laguna Lake to help protect it by simply managing their wastes.

“Five years ago, we warned the public that Manila would be waterless. Getting potable water from the lake is very near to becoming a reality. The more we pollute the lake, the more we will spend to clean it up for us to have drinkable water,” Manda said.– Katherine Adraneda, Philippine Star

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