Fishers ready to face off with execs on Laguna Lake flooding

SENATE HEARING ON OCTOBER 9
Fishers ready to face off with execs on Laguna Lake flooding

By Billy Javier Reyes, Gerry Albert Corpuz and Rey Manangan

Binangonan, Rizal- Leaders of the left-leaning fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) will come in full force on October 9, the date the Senate Committee on Environment chaired by Senator Jamby Madrigal will conduct an investigation on the alarming water level in Laguna Lake and the mass flooding surrounding Asia’s 3rd largest lake.

In a press statement, Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap will lead the 15-man fisherfolk team who will act as resource persons for Laguna Lake and Manila Bay who will talk on the connection of reclamation projects in Laguna Lake and Manila Bay and their direct link to the mass flooding in Metro Manila and nearby provinces and the critical water level in Laguna Lake.

Aside from Hicap, other Pamalakaya leaders who will act as resource persons are Pamalakaya vice chairperson Pedro Gonzalez who will represent the Laguna side of Laguna Lake, Romy Antazo of Pamalakaya-Rizal and Save Laguna Lake Movement, Salvador France, Pamalakaya vice chair for Luzon and scores of local fisherfolk leaders from Rizal, Laguna and Cavite.

The Pamalakaya leader said his team is expected to raise the issue pertaning to the closure of Napindan Hydraulic Control Structures (NCHS) in Laguna Lake, which he blamed for the recent rise in the water level of the lake and the mass flooding of Metro Manila and lake town parts of Rizal and Laguna provinces.

The NHCS was built in 1983 to prevent or lessen the increase of salinity from Manila Bay and pollution from the Pasig River from entering Laguna de Bay during times of reverse flow. The NHCS is found on the confluence of Marikina and Pateros-Taguig rivers with Pasig River. This confluence is also the downstream endpoint of the Napindan Channel, which is the upper part of Pasig River that connects to Laguna de Bay.

Aside from preventing the reverse flow of Pasig River, the NHCS is also used for flood control. During the rainy season, most of the flooding along the Pasig River area is due to the increased water flow coming from Marikina River. The Manggahan Floodway in Pasig City was constructed to divert much of this water from Marikina River directly into Laguna de Bay. By also closing the NHCS during times of rain, the water is effectively dammed in Laguna de Bay preventing it from flooding the downstream portions of Pasig River.

Hicap said LLDA General Manager Edgar Manda and Environment Secretary Joselito Atienza are complicating the situation by endorsing the forced eviction of 100,000 lakeshore residents mostly small fishermen and poor people who have been living in Laguna Lake surroundings for generations.

“The forced relocation of 100,000 people is not the solution. The best thing to do is to open the NCHS, which has been closed by LLDA for years now. This is the best and most logical explanation why the water level in Laguna Lake is now at an alarming level. The situation merits the opening of NCHS and let the excess waters pass through Pasig River on its way to Manila Bay,” he said.

The Pamalakaya official said LLDA chair Manda and Atienza should exercise common sense in dealing with the flood problem in connection with the rising water level of Laguna Lake, instead of displaying extreme act of paranoia and going hysterical all over the public.

“What it takes is simple science and basic logic. Right now, the water level in Laguna Lake is higher than Manila Bay, and its only logical therefore, to allow it to be disposed on its way to Manila Bay by opening the NCHS,” Hicap explained.

In a press briefing yesterday at the headquarters of the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC), LLDA chair Manda said typhoon “Pepeng” will dump half of the rains that tropical storm Ondoy brought to the National Capital Region on Sept.26, the water level of Laguna Lake may break its all-time record of 14.62 meters, possibly sinking more coastal barangays in Metro Manila and Rizal province.

The LLDA chief made the projection to justify the removal of some 100,000 residents, specially those residing on the shorelines of Taguig, Cainta, Pasig, Taytay and Muntinlupa, in response to the preemptive evacuation called by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo

According to Manda, the waters of Laguna Lake cannot easily pass through the Napindan Channel in Taguig into the Pasig River and then to Manila Bay because of some 25,000 informal settlers blocking the passageway. He specifically identified a community of about 25,000 families in Sitio Lupang Arenda—straddling Taguig, Taytay and Cainta.

However, Pamalakaya said the people of Laguna Lake should not be deceived by the latest escapade of LLDA general manager that his recommendation is meant to spare people’s lives from the wrath of typhoon Pepeng.

“Since he assumed the LLDA general managership, what Mr. Manda really has in mind is the forcible removal of 100,000 families along the lake so Malacanang could proceed with the reclamation of 5,000 hectares in Taguig, Pateros and Muntinlupa, where an international airport glamorized with high rise condominiums and first-class hotels will be constructed,’ the fisherfolk group said.

Pamalakaya also blamed the widespread reclamation in Laguna Lake as culprits to the sudden increase in the water level of the lake for the construction of road and dikes from Taguig to Taytay (9.8 kilometers), Bicutan to Taguig (9.5 kilometers), Sta. Rosa to Calamba City section (28 kilometers) Bay to Sta.Cruz in Laguna (32 kilometers), Siniloan to Kalayaan section (28 kilometers) and Tanay section (10 kilometers).

Pamalakaya also said aside from road and dike construction, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the LLDA will proceed with the additional reclamation of lake waters in Taguig (3,000 hectares), Muntinlupa (5,000 hectares) and Los Baños in Laguna (500 hectares), which the group said will further worsen the flood problem in the National Capital Region and nearby towns of Laguna and Rizal provinces because these reclamation projects will serve as obstruction to the natural flow of waters in the lake.

Pamalakaya theorized that LLDA chair Manda is using the calamity situation as trick to really evict lakeshore folks since that has been Malacanang and the authority’s grand design which is to remove lake people to prepare Laguna Lake for the grand takeover of big businesses, who are planning to set up big infrastructure projects like high rise condominiums and posh hotels along the lake’s coastlines.

Pamalakaya said Laguna Lake fisherfolk and residents living along the shorelines are survivors. Despite the abnormal rise in water level of Laguna Lake caused by typhoon Ondoy, small fishermen in 9 towns of Rizal and 18 towns of Laguna continue their day-to-day fish catch activities, leaving their families inside flooded houses and designated evacuation centers.

The group said there are 18,000 small fisherfolk families in Laguna Lake and they are found in 9 coastal towns of Rizal and 18 towns of Laguna Lake, excluding towns and cities in the National Capital Region like Pasig, Pateros, Muntinlupa and Taguig. The group said over 500,000 lake folk population are affected by typhoon Ondoy. #

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Filed under Breaking News, disaster, environment, Laguna Lake

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