Fishers group urges House, Senate to prioritize Laguna Lake probe too

By Billy Javier Reyes and Rey Manangan

Binangonan, Rizal- The lake wide fishers group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) and staunch ally- the multisectoral alliance Save Laguna Lake Movement (SLLM) on Thursday urged leaders of the Philippine Senate and the House of Representatives to also prioritize the legislative inquiry on Laguna Lake which is still under 14.5 meter deep since tropical storm Ondoy hit the country on Sept.26.

“Today is Oct.16 or about 20 days since storm Ondoy turned Laguna Lake into a virtual water world. Do we need 40 days before Congress takes up an inquiry on the ill-fated 90,000 hectare lake? Excuse us, but Laguna Lake, its people and environment are not dead to wait for 40-day ritual,” Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap said in a press statement.

Hicap added: “Let me remind our lawmakers that 30 towns and cities of Rizal and Laguna provinces and the National Capital Region were swallowed by Laguna Lake at the height of storm Ondoy affecting 2.2 million out of the 6 million fisherfolk and lake shore population. But the investigation is not moving as if the issue on hand is just a dime-a-dozen concern”.

The Pamalakaya leader noted that only a handful of lawmakers agreed to their proposal for an all-out investigation on the current state of Laguna Lake. They are Senator Jamby Madrigal in the Senate, Muntinlupa Rep. Ruffy Biazon and militant party list lawmakers Satur Ocampo, Teddy Casino and Neri Colmenaras of Bayan Muna, Luzviminda Ilagan and Liza Maza of Gabriela Women’s Party, Raymond Palatino of Kabataan Party and Rafael Mariano and Joel Maglunsod of Anakpawis party list.

“The Senate has 23 senators and the House of Representatives has 255 congressmen. But only a few good men and women managed to rise above the occasion. It is not too late for the leadership of both Houses and their peers to come to their senses and start the ball rolling on Laguna Lake catastrophe,” added Hicap.

The lake-based groups said Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and House Speaker Prospero Nograles should discourage members of the Senate and the House from going into vacation or abroad and instead call for special sessions that will look into the impacts of storm Ondoy and typhoon Pepeng and root the causes of the twin catastrophe that plagued the almost entire island of Luzon. Both houses are set to have their recess on Oct.15.

“No more foreign trips please, and the lawmakers should continue their legislative work by pursuing these investigations in aid of legislation and by going back to their respective districts and find out the needs of their devastated constituents,” Hicap added.

Prior to typhoon Ondoy, Pamalakaya and SLLM asserted that towns and cities surrounding the lake were already flooded. The groups attributed the flooding to the closure of the NCHS that prevented excess waters of Laguna Lake from passing through Pasig River on its way to Manila Bay. Both groups said at the height of typhoon Ondoy, the Napindan channel was still closed impounding more waters to the lake and later spilled to 30 towns in Rizal, Laguna and Metro Manila.

Last week, the Social Action Center of San Pablo City in Laguna said the mass flooding affected 20 towns of Laguna, excluding several towns in Rizal province and had displaced around 750,248 people mostly fisherfolk, farmers and urban poor.

The most affected towns are the towns of Binan where 45,125 families or 198,700 people were displaced, followed by San Pedro (25,606 families or 153,636 people affected), Sta.Cruz (20, 498 families or 102,590 people displaced) Sta. Rosa (14,951 families or 77,052 people displaced), Cabuyao (7,670 families or 46,001 persons affected), Calamba (8,024 families or 33, 819 people affected) and Los Banos (5,496 families or 29,730 people displaced.

Pamalakaya and SLLM suggested the following names and offices to be invited or subpoenaed for the congressional inquiry, whether separate or joint congressional inquiry.

Their list includes environment Secretary Joselito Atienza, Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA) General Manager Edgar Manda, the governors of Rizal and Laguna provinces, mayors and local government officials of affected 30 towns and cities surrounding the lake, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA), the officials of Board of Investment (BOI), the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) and the Office of Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita to represent President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. #

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