By Rey Manangan, Billy Javier Reyes and Pepsi La Loma
Taytay, Rizal- The impact of El Nino phenomenon on the already dwindling inland resources of Laguna Lake compelled lake fishers to demand the government a monthly supply of 1 sack of rice for every fishing family for free.
The proposal came from Laguna Lake fishermen identified with the militant fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya), Anakpawis party list the Katipunan ng mga Samahang Magbubukid sa Timog Katagalugan (Kasama-TK) and the broad Save Laguna Lake Movement (SLLM).
Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap said the demand for free supply of rice to cushion the impact of long dry spell is just one of the five set of economic demands pressed by small fishermen from Malacanang, concerned government agencies and local governments in Laguna Lake. He said the issue of lingering hunger and poverty in Laguna Lake that was further compounded by last year’s super typhoon Ondoy and now the El Nino phenomenon.
Hicap said the proposal was agreed by leaders of Pamalakaya, Anakpawis party list and SLLM during an all Laguna Lake leaders caucus held in Pamalakaya headquarters in Quezon City last week and was affirmed in the municipal assembly of Anakpawis –Cardona chapter in Talim Island yesterday.
“Our proposal for supply of 1 rice of sack for free will cover the month of March, April, May, June and July- where the long dry spell is expected to end. Aside from free supply of rice within the period, we also demand local government units to immediately release the calamity funds intended for their respective constituents and let fisherfolk and farmers plant crops for their subsistence or alternative livelihood,” added Hicap.
The Pamalakaya leader also said that since the long dry spell is expected to generate heat related diseases among fisherfolk and poor lake dwellers, his group is also urging the Department of Health (DoH) to mobilize doctors and health workers to look into the situation of poor folk and be ready to provide the lake people with free check ups and medicines.
Hicap also pressed the government to set aside at least P 1,500 worth of groceries package for every family of poor fisherfolk and lake resident in the 90,000 hectare Laguna Lake representing the 9 lake towns of Rizal and 18 lake towns of Laguna, including the cities of Pasig, Taguig and Muntinlupa and the municipality of Pateros- all in National Capital Region.
For his part, Pamalakaya-Southern Tagalog chair and SLLM convener Pedro Gonzalez, the set of economic subsidy package is just an item to the set of Omnibus Demand crafted by fisherfolk , the party list group Anakpawis and other cause-oriented organizations in Laguna Lake.
Gonzalez said Malacanang, the Laguna Lake Development Authority(LLDA), the provincial and municipal governments of Rizal and Laguna and city mayors in Metro Manila should stop if not indefinitely suspend the demolition of communities in the lake and put an end to the ongoing massive reclamation and other joint state-private projects.
“Instead of proceeding with demolitions of fishing villages, privatization and conversion of public lands along the lake, we urge the government to provide P 5,000 rehabilitation grant to every fishing family so they could repair their houses wrecked by typhoon Ondoy last year,” said Gonzalez.
The 66-year old fisherfolk leader said LLDA should permanently open if not dismantle the controversial Napindan Hydraulic Control Structure (NCHS) to allow salt water from Manila Bay to penetrate Laguna Lake. Gonzalez said the regular entry of salt water in Laguna Lake will allow the lake to restore its former ecological balance and healthy inland environment.
This set of demands, according to Anakpawis party list secretary general Cherry Clemente will be submitted to the following agencies—the LLDA, the provincial and local governments in Rizal and Laguna, to the mayor of Pasig City, Taguig City, Muntinlupa City and municipality of Pateros.
Clemente said a petition for the same set of demands will also be submitted to the Department of Agriculture (DA), the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), the health department and to the Office of the President, House Speaker Prospero Nograles and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile for appropriate actions.
Tomorrow, a 10-vehicle caravan from different towns of Rizal and Laguna and NCR will join a march rally led by some 2,000 urban poor residents of Lupang Arenda in Taytay, Rizal to press LLDA to stop the demolition of their communities and endorse the El Nino driven demands set by Pamalakaya, SLLM and Anakpawis for people of Laguna Lake.
The government plans to evict 62,000 fishing and urban poor families in Lupang Arenda on the ground that they all live in danger zone areas, but critics said the government is using the issue of massive flooding caused by typhoon Ondoy last year to justify the demolition and make easy for the government to install big ticket projects in Laguna Lake. #