Laguna Lake nears tipping point, needs more local green action
By Catherine J. Teves

MANILA, Oct. 12 (PNA) -- Presidential Adviser for Environmental Protection Nereus Acosta raised urgency for more local action on saving the Philippines' largest lake Laguna de Bay from further environmental degradation, noting latest data show this 98,000-hectare water body is already approaching its tipping point.

"We must prevent Laguna de Bay from reaching that point," he said Monday (Oct. 12) in Metro Manila on the side of a briefing on the Philippine Wealth Accounting and Valuation of Ecosystem Services (Phil-WAVES) study covering the lake.

He warned Laguna de Bay's aquatic life and ecosystem will be compromised more if this lake reaches its tipping point, further jeopardizing food security and the water body's services.

Laguna de Bay accounts for some 70 percent of milkfish or 'bangus' supply in Metro Manila, he noted.

The lake is also a transport route and source of water for domestic and other purposes.

Comprising Laguna de Bay Region are Laguna and Rizal provinces, parts of Metro Manila and Cavite, Batangas and Quezon provinces and the lake itself.

Acosta heads Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA) which has jurisdiction over such region.

He said LGUs in the region must look into data on Laguna de Bay's state so each can understand its contributions to environmental degradation there then identify and implement interventions for addressing these.

The scientific data is already indicating such lake is on the brink of death so LGUs concerned must already act accordingly, he said.

Despite being autonomous, Acosta said LGUs must consider scientific data in respective decision-making processes to avoid pursuing activities that'll just further worsen environmental degradation.

"It's about restraint as the basis of any economy is ecology," he said.

LLDA's assessment for the Phil-WAVES study indicates Laguna de Bay is reeling from years of siltation, pollution, alien specie invasion and other environmental threats.

"Laguna de Bay's story is one of decline and degradation - it's a governance challenge since LGUs are autonomous but can't just do whatever these want in respective areas of jurisdiction," noted Acosta.

Closed forests in Laguna de Bay Region decreased by 35 percent during the 2003-2010 period while coverage of built-up areas there increased by 116 percent, LLDA said.

"It's alarming because we're taking away biocapacity there," Acosta said at the briefing.

He said the study also showed deforestation in Laguna de Bay Region caused more siltation in the lake, making this water body shallower and less able to store water.

"That's affecting the lake's flood water retention capacity so areas around this water body is more prone to flooding," he said.

Waste from domestic and other sources continues polluting Laguna de Bay's water since only about 12 percent of these are connected to sewerage systems, Acosta further noted.

"The result is fish kill and other disturbances to the otherwise balanced ecology there," he said.

Fishery production is a major economic activity in Laguna de Bay but environmental degradation and proliferation of knife fish - an invasive alien specie - is threatening survival of milkfish and other commercial fish species there, Acosta continued.

He said Laguna de Bay can still sustain fishery production but such threats must be addressed as soon as possible or there won't be commercial fish species to catch eventually, he noted.

"If a business-as-usual scenario continues in the region,conditions in Laguna de Bay will be dismal," he said.

WAVES is a World Bank-supported global partnership aiming to account for natural capital - which refers to all types of natural resources - and services that ecosystems provide so the full value of these resources can be known and understood.

The Philippines is among countries undertaking WAVES accounting, believing information this will generate is vital in helping improve planning for sustainable development nationwide. (PNA)

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