Deadline set for removal of excess fish cages in Lake Sebu

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/06 March) — The municipal government of Lake Sebu in South Cotabato has given local fish cage operators until the end of the month to voluntarily remove their excess fish cages and related structures or face forced demolition and possible charges.

This, as Lake Sebu Mayor Antonio Fungan vowed on Monday to strictly implement the 10-percent utilization limit for the critical lake as part of the ongoing rehabilitation efforts in the wake of the recent massive fish kill that destroyed around P126.5 million worth of tilapia.

Such move was provided for in Executive Order No. 2017-19 issued by the mayor that declared the “10 percent aquaculture zone in the municipal waters of Lake Sebu.”

Some of the fish cages in Lake Sebu. File photo by H. Marcos C. Mordeno

The order was dated March 2 but officially released by the municipal government on Monday, March 6.

Fungan said the allowable area for fish cage operations will only be 10 percent of the lake as agreed during a consultation meeting called by the local government last Feb. 27.

During the meeting, he said some 464 fish cage operators signified full support to the move, which is in compliance with government fishery regulations.

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.

“Under the strict order of 10 percent utilization of the municipal waters, all fish cages and other structures that exceeds 10 percent shall be dismantled,” Fungan said.

Lake Sebu, which is the largest of the town’s three lakes, spans 354 hectares and covers barangays Bacdulong, Takunel and Poblacion.

With the implementation of the 10 percent utilization limit, the area’s fish cages and related structures should only cover 35.4 hectares.

Records showed that fish cages presently cover 23.19 percent or 82 hectares of the entire Lake Sebu.

The mayor gave fish cage operators an “allowance” of 20 days to demolish their excess structures voluntarily.

“Failure to follow this directive after a lapse of 30 days shall compel the municipal government to conduct its own demolition activity, subject to the corresponding confiscation of the construction materials or the filing of appropriate cases in court per mandate of RA 8550,” he noted.

Aside from this, Fungan said the local government will also strictly monitor and prohibit the trading and/or stocking of fingerlings “until such time that the lake’s condition stabilizes.”

He said they will continue with the ongoing cleanup operations of water hyacinths and finalize the zoning of the lake.

The municipal government placed the entire municipality last month under a state of calamity as a result of the fish kill from January 27 to February 4.

The fish kill had destroyed nearly 1.4 million tonnes of tilapia from 4,944 fish cages owned by 464 operators.

Experts noted that the overcrowding of fish cages at the lake, the proliferation of water hyacinths and the use of commercial feeds by operators have caused its waters to deteriorate, triggering fish kills.

They were blamed for the occurrence of “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 causes the massive fish kill. (MindaNews)