747 illegal structures in Lake Sebu demolished

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/23 May) — Environment personnel in South Cotabato have demolished a total of 747 illegal structures in parts of Lake Sebu as part of the continuing massive cleanup of the critical lake.

Mary Jane Manlisis, forest and inland water division chief of the Provincial Environment Management Office (PEMO), said Friday the demolished structures mainly comprised fish cages and resort cottages that were built along the passageways and outlets of the lake.

The municipal government of Lake Sebu had declared the first 20 meters from the lake’s shores as passageways for bancas or small fishing boats and restricted the building of any structure there.

The demolition team, which is composed of PEMO and municipal government personnel, launched the cleanup of the illegal lake structures last February based on an order issued by the municipal government and the provincial government of South Cotabato.

Manlisis said the demolished structures included 561 illegal fish cages, 128 cottages and 12 guard houses or stations.

She said they also cleared the area of 46 other accessory structures, some of which were dismantled by the owners themselves.

Aside from the illegal structures, she said they cleaned up the lake of around 1,200 tons of water lilies.

Manlisis said the cleared area covers around 20 of the estimated 35 hectares of Lake Sebu that was invaded by water lilies.

To complement the cleanup efforts, she said their office has delivered 29,595 planting materials to communities situated near the lake.

She said the distribution of the planting materials is part of the soil and water conservation project of the Lake Sebu rehabilitation and conservation program.

The planting materials consisted of rubber, coffee, coconut, sweet guyabano, jackfruit, mangosteen and durian, she said.

Manlisis said they also assisted local residents in propagating around 4,000 balabago and madre de cacao seedlings that will be used for lake shore planting.

The provincial government-led Lake Sebu Rehabilitation and Development Council earlier 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 354-hectare 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 were devastated due to a major fishkill in the area.

The fish kill 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. (MindaNews)