South Cotabato wants moratorium on fish cage ops in Lake Sebu

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/06 February) — The provincial government of South Cotabato is pushing for a one-year moratorium on fish cage operations at the critical Lake Sebu following the massive fish kill that destroyed around P124.5 million worth of tilapia.

Siegfred Flaviano, Provincial Environment Management Office (PEMO) chief, said Monday the move is in line with the needed intensive rehabilitation of the 354-hectare lake to address the worsening fish kills.

He said they initially submitted such recommendation to South Cotabato Gov. Daisy Avance-Fuentes.

“We need to implement a moratorium…set policies and a system that will ensure the proper management of the lake,” he said in an interview over radio station dxKR.

The official said they are set to consult and discuss their recommendations to Lake Sebu Mayor Antonio Fungan, members of the Sangguniang Bayan or municipal council and other local stakeholders.

He clarified that the proposed moratorium should be set by the local government since the lake is classified as municipal waters.

Flaviano said Lake Sebu is considered as overcrowded as the fish cages presently occupy around 20 percent of the lake area that is way beyond its carrying capacity.

Under Republic Act 8550 or the Philippine Fishery Code of 1998, only 10 percent of the total area of inland waters is allowed for aquaculture development.

The municipal government of Lake Sebu, in coordination with the PEMO, conducted a clearing of illegal or unlicensed fish cages in parts the lake two years ago following a massive fish kill that then destroyed around P45 million worth of tilapia.

Flaviano said the clearing of illegal fish cages and related structures at the lake should be sustained until the 10 percent allowable area is reached.

He said such move is included in the proposed fisheries code that they submitted to the local government two years ago.

But the measure has not been passed by the municipal council and remains pending, he said.

As of Monday, the Lake Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (MDRRMO) said the fish kill, which started on Jan. 27, already destroyed some 1,383,416 kilos of tilapia.

With the farm gate price of P90 per kilo, the value of the damage has reached P124,507,440, said MDRRMO head Roberto Bagong.

He said it affected some 4,944 dish cages owned by 464 operators in Barangays Poblacion, Takonel and Bacdulong.

Bagong said the three affected barangays have already declared a state of calamity as a result of the fish kill.

He said Mayor Fungan and the municipal council is scheduled to meet Monday to discuss the proposed calamity declaration for the entire municipality.

Fishery officials blamed the latest fish kill to “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 massive fish kill.

Last year, the municipal government of Lake Sebu recorded at least eight fish kills that destroyed around P1.4 million worth of tilapia. The last major fish kill in the area was in 2014. (MindaNews)