Senator Loren Legarda stressed the importance of protecting the country’s coastal resources and having a comprehensive water resource management program.
Legarda, Chair of the Senate Committees on Finance and Climate Change, made the statement during the plenary debates on the proposed 2018 budget of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
In response to a query on the existence of a master plan for the sustainable development of Laguna de Bay, the veteran legislator said that the DENR already has one but it must be reviewed to ensure a holistic approach in managing the lake as well as addressing the needs of the affected populace.
“We need to decongest the surroundings of the lake from informal settler families (ISF), especially those in Lupang Arenda, which is an island of garbage turned into settlement. It is not even habitable and the government, especially the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and National Housing Authority (NHA), should move these families out of the area and find them a humane community,” the seasoned lawmaker stressed.
While the DENR has already demolished 44 illegal fish pens in the lake, which is equivalent to 45% of the total illegal fish pens, Legarda hopes that the resettlement of ISFs can also be done quickly.
“Perhaps the DENR can create a Laguna Lake Task Force not just for resettlement but also to address the issue of siltation and to provide programs such as massive planting of bamboo and sustainable livelihood for the people,” the lady senator said, noting that this should also be done in other bodies of water surrounded by communities such as the Manila Bay and the Pasig River.
“It is actually ironic that we are poor when we are abundant in water resources. We have used our bays, lakes and rivers as sewerage and garbage bins. This is not the way to treat our water resources – our source of life. Let us implement our environmental laws, plant mangroves or restore coral reefs, whichever is applicable. We should bring back the bounty and restore the ecological integrity of the Laguna de Bay, Manila Bay, Pasig River, and our other threatened bodies of water,” she urged.
Moreover, Legarda also stressed the need to complete the mapping of coastal resources all over the country “because we would not know what we will protect if we do not know what we actually have.”
She added that the DENR’s Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) should coordinate closely with the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) so that where there are rich fishing grounds there should also be community fish landing centers, and that coastal protection and conservation programs are in place.
“We have 822 coastal municipalities all over the country and we must know the state of the corals in these areas, the resources that they have including those that can serve as natural buffers like mangroves and seagrass beds, and their resilience programs. Undertaking coastal resource mapping would give us a clearer view of what we have and what interventions are necessary to preserve, protect and sustainably manage these resources. Moreover, the DENR, Climate Change Commission, the University of the Philippines Resilience Institute, and local government units must converge to build the resilience of our coastal communities,” Legarda concluded.