GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/06 March) — Environment workers in South Cotabato province have demolished an initial 35 illegal structures in parts of Lake Sebu as part of the continuing massive cleanup of the critical lake.
Lake Sebu Mayor Antonio Fungan said among those demolished were resort cottages, fish cages and other structures situated in the initial 20 meters from the lakeshore and those located near the outlets of the lake.
He said the demolition team, which comprised personnel from the municipal government and the Provincial Environment Management Office, also destroyed several shanties that were illegally put up along the lake.
The structures were demolished for violation of the provisions of the municipal revenue code, which sets the proper use of the lake waters and resources, he said.
“The demolition activities are presently ongoing and we will not stop until we finally clean up the lake of these illegal structures,” the mayor said in a radio interview.
The demolition team launched the cleanup of the illegal lake structures two weeks ago based on an order issued by the municipal government and the provincial government of South Cotabato.
Fungan said they initially scheduled the start of the demolition last January 20 but was eventually deferred until February 11 based on a request from the affected sectors.
He said they approved the temporary suspension of the demolition or cleanup after local fish cage and resort operators promised to demolish their illegally-built structures themselves.
The mayor said that prior to the start of the demolition activities, the affected fish cage and resort operators asked for another stay until June supposedly to give them enough time to self-demolish.
“We did not give in to their request as we felt we’ve given them enough time already and it’s now time to properly implement the regulations governing the lake,” he said.
Meantime, Zaldy Artacho, Lake Sebu municipal agriculturist and among those supervising the demolition activities, said in a statement that they have so far cleared the first 20 meters from the lakeshore and re-established the passage way to the lake’s outlets.
He said most of the lake’s designated passage ways had been covered with illegal structures, which now occupy two to three kilometers from the lake’s shores.
Artacho said the demolished structures comprised of two concrete resort cottages, six semi-concrete cottages and 27 fish cages and other light structures.
The provincial government of South Cotabato and the municipal government issued the go-signal for the demolition of illegal structures along Lake Sebu to help address its deteriorating condition.
According to an assessment made by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, the lake is considered overcrowded making major fish kills imminent.
It said about 21 percent of the lake is currently occupied by tilapia fish cages and other structures, most of which are considered illegal.
In January, the municipal government of Lake Sebu reported that a total of 68.219 metric tons of tilapia worth around P5.2 million had been devastated due to another fishkill in the area.
Lake warden Rudy Muyco said some 54 fish cage operators were already affected by the fishkill, which occurred in eastern and western sections of the lake.
Muyco said the latest fish kill, which was the first this year, was caused anew by kamahong, a phenomenon that is mainly caused by the sudden rise in the water’s temperature.
Kamahong, which usually occurs during the rainy season, triggers the rise of sulfuric acid in the lake’s waters that eventually cause the fish kill.
Artacho said the demolition team is currently preparing to clear another 100 meters of the lake’s passage way of illegal fish cages.
He added that out of the existing 5,282 fish cages at the lake, some 1,374 are yet to be demolished by the team. (MindaNews)