We will not budge or back off in our duty to clear Manila Bay, Laguna de Bay and Taal Lake of illegal fish pens even with the presence of armed men threatening our people.
This was my message to local executives and other sectors opposing the ongoing demolition of fish pens in the three water bodies during the weekly Balitaan at Rembrandt Hotel.
I issued the statement after some local executives and other organizations posing as poor fisherfolk strongly opposed the clearing operations being undertaken jointly by the DENR and the provincial governments of Cavite and Batangas.
This debunks the claims of oppositors that the ongoing clearing operations of fish pens and fish cages will adversely affect the poor fishermen in the area.
How would this activity affect our poor fisherman when these fish pens block his way and is threatened by armed men the moment he paddles near guarded the fish pens?
Based on records, fish pens are owned by rich and influential people from the military and the police, Congress, and even local executive.Fish pens cannot be owned by poor fishermen, and the claim that the ongoing activity will affect them is untrue.
I cannot turn my back now from my responsibility as DENR chief to protect the environment and provide the poor the opportunity to benefit from these water bodies now that the Supreme Court has already ordered the clean up of Manila Bay.
We are definitely decided and more committed now as before to pursue the clean up of the lake areas not only to restore the good quality of water in Laguna de Bay , Manila Bay and Taal Lake to their former grandeur but also to give the poor the opportunity to have access to the fishing grounds that were rightfully theirs.
I personally joined an aerial survey in Laguna Lake and found that fish pens occupy about 80% of the lake which, according to him, is one of the biggest anomalous situations and a clear abuse on the environment by a few.
The DENR is committed to remove all the illegal structures that choke the waters to improve water quality and navigational path.
In a related development, I also called on the youth and all other stakeholders that participated in the International Coastal Clean Up Day over the weekend to be vigilant and develop a new mindset on the need to clean up waterways, saying that Manila Bay, along with Laguna de Bay and Taal Lake, can become an engine of economic development not only for Metro Manila but for the whole country as well.
This is the true message of this day — we must be vigilant and develop a new mindset; that it is our responsibility as Filipinos to protect and restore the good qualities of our water bodies for our benefit and that of future generations.
More than 2,000 volunteers trooped to the Paranaque-Las Pinas Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area in San Dionisio, Paranaque City to participate in the annual observance of International Coastal Clean Up Day organized by the DENR. The volunteers were comprised mostly of students from various schools, colleges and universities from the National Capital Region, employees of various government agencies, officials and personnel of the Paranaque City government led by Mayor Florencio Bernabe, Jr., representatives of non-government organizations and the private sector.
Leading the clean up exercise, I urged the participants to continuously support the government in its effort to clean up waterways. He particularly called on the local government units to ensure that the water bodies within their political jurisdiction are protected.
We need the help of all stakeholders, particularly the LGUs, to ensure that the environment is protected and sustainable economic development is realized.
There are two sources of pollution of water bodies surrounding Metro Manila. These are the domestic waste and industrial waste from households and industries, and the fish pens that proliferate in the area.
The DENR is addressing the two issues by ordering the two water concessionaires to construct wastewater treatment facilities, and the ongoing clearing operations in Manila Bay, Laguna de Bay, and Taal Lake.