MIND DA NEWS: Lake Sebu Problem: Typical

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 12 March) – The Lake Sebu story as written by Bong S. Sarmiento (MindaNews, March 10, 2013) is a problem typical of Filipinos and the Philippines. We have the necessary laws but we can only talk about our social, environmental and other problems instead of firmly implementing them.

The Lake Sebu problem is not different from that of Laguna Lake – or any other lake in the country. The helplessness of the authorities to enforce the laws regulating cage fishing is not different from what has happened to our forests and mountains and is happening with our mines. Because of the failure to conserve and protect, despite the existing laws, the watershed areas of Lake Lanao, the lake can no longer supply enough water to run the hydroelectric plants; hence, the long brownouts in Mindanao.

The problem of Lake Sebu is critical. It is not too late to save and rehabilitate the lake. The experts in authority know the problems; they have bright ideas to address the problems. Implement the laws; then let the experts of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources do their job unhampered.

Let the time deploring in the media the situation in Lake Sebu end. Enough studies and investigations have been done. Let the time doing what must be done begin. Let media pick it up from there without sounding pathetic.

At this point, the problem is largely political. The DENR people failed to enforce the laws to limit the number of fish cages and regulate the cage operation within the sustainable resources of the lake. The local government, as well as the national, must step in.

According to the report, “some of the fish pens belong to ‘higher’ level officials”. Political influence must have handcuffed “the local government” from regulating “the sprouting of fish cages over the last 25 years”. Political influence can be stopped only by strong political will.

Lake Sebu municipality is widely known more for its tourist attractions than for its tilapia industry. If Lake Sebu dies, both the tilapia and tourism industries will die. Declaring a moratorium on the tilapia industry will allow the lake to recover. The tourism industry will continue growing and the tilapia industry can be revived later under more sustainable conditions.

If the South Cotabato Provincial Government was able to pass a law prohibiting open pit mining and holding its ground against one of the world’s biggest mining companies, why can’t it do the same to save Lake Sebu from slow death, the industry that is killing it, and the tourism industry.

In a bigger sense, why can’t Government let the laws prevail over the selfish interests that have long been polluting our rivers, lakes and seas and depleting our natural resources? It has been done in Europe; otherwise, the Old Continent could have long been dead. It has been done in many other parts of the world.

Most critical to the solution of the Lake Sebu problem are those in the tilapia industry. The MindaNews report mentioned the “300 to 600 families … dependent on the industry” as among the considerations in allowing “the sprouting of the fish cages” beyond sustainable limit. In sacrificing the future for the present, they are sacrificing the future of their own children and their children’s children. (Patricio P. Diaz/MindaNews)