Fish farmers’ coop lead Sampaloc Lake cleanup

by Isabel L. Bondad

[NEWS FEATURE] On August 7, the Sampaloc Lake Fish Farmer Marketing Cooperative (SLFFMC) conducted a cleaning operation in Sampaloc Lake, one of the seven lakes in San Pablo City. The activity is part of the cooperative’s advocacy of keeping the lake clean and safe especially those residing near the lake.

Floating cages are popular among tourists visiting the Bunot Lake.

Since 2011, the SLFFMC organized cleaning operations every month for San Pablo’s seven lakes. The cooperative coordinates with local fisher folks and their families for the regular cleaning of the lakes. Wives of the fishermen sweep the surroundings around the lake while the fishermen use nets with long sticks to get the garbage floating on the surface of the lakes. They make their rounds in their boats clearing the lake of garbage.

While the regular removal of garbage from the lakes are vital in the rehabilitation of lakes, SLFFMC aims for more sustainable means of achieving their goal of having clean and safe San Pablo lakes. The cooperative advocates good fishing practices among their members as well as regulate the number and size of fish pens in the seven lakes.

SLFFMC is an organization of fisher folks residing near the Sampaloc Lake. Victorino Anyayahan currently heads SLFFMC. Established in 2011, the organization remains active in keeping the lakes clean and in facilitating the lake rehabilitation. The cooperative aims for a sustainable source of livelihood, which can be achieved by rehabilitating the lakes.

SLFFMC President Victorino Anyayahan during the cleaning operations in August.

San Pablo’s seven lakes are major sources of livelihood for many residents. Sampaloc Lake, the largest lake is in the city proper. Yambo and Pandin Lakes can be found in Barangay San Lorenzo. Mohicap, Calibato, Palakpakin, and Bunot Lake is located in Barangay Sta. Catalina, Barangay Santo Angel, Barangay San Buenaventura and Barangay Concepcion respectively.

According to Teodoro Reymina, an environmentalist and a known advocate of rehabilitation of the lakes, the bodies of water were once known for its clear and unsoiled waters. Because of excessive exploitation and human involvement, the water quality in San Pablo lakes has deteriorated. Illegal fish pens were built and garbage and other impurities were disposed in the lakes contributing to the worsening condition of the lakes.  Such condition was made worse with the excessive use of fish pellets  that led to the fish kills reported in the area. Fecal wastes from backyard piggeries of some residents also account for the impurities.

Cleaning the lakes is a must because every month, sacks of garbage are acquired from the lake. The garbage acquired varies from plastics, bottles, eating utensils, leaves from the trees near the lake, and even fecal wastes.

According to the water quality report of the Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA), increased concentration of ammonia and inorganic phosphates were observed in San Pablo lakes. Such levels of substances exceeded the allowed and acceptable amount.

Furthermore, fecal impurities have been found on all the lakes. The Sampaloc Lake is reported to be the dirtiest of the seven lakes while Pandin Lake is said to be the cleanest but should still be guarded due to the amount of phosphate deposits found. Also, removing the excess impurities on the water of the Sampaloc Lake cannot be done on a short of period of time. This will take a long process since too many impurities such as ammonia and fecal matters were found on its waters during according to the water quality testing result.

LLDA also said that continuous efforts and community participation should be exerted in order for the lake to be free from excess impurities. Due to the overcrowding of fishpens in Bunot Lake, it was highly recommended that fishing activities be stopped to let the lake recover.

Given the situation of the lakes, several rehabilitation projects for the seven lakes were implemented by different non-government organizations from 1999 to 2008 however, very few of these efforts were sustained.

SLFFMC President Anyayahan said that the rehabilitation of the lakes is their responsibility as residents. He further explained that it would be to their disadvantage if the lakes are not rehabilitated as the lakes are their major source of income.

Local government efforts for the rehabilitation of the seven lakes include the Lake Watch, a program preventing further increase in the lakes’ condition. Commercial establishments around the lakes are also decreased in order to lessen the wastes on the lakes. Around 39 establishments were already removed while about 250 illegal settlers were relocated.

As a source of livelihood, fishing and handicraft making from the water hyacinth are some of the benefits the residents acquire from the lakes. The lakes are also abundant sources of freshwater tilapia and carp.

Aside from these, tourism has also been a source of income for the residents near the lakes. Boating services on the lakes was offered to tourists. Bikes can also be rented for visitors in the Sampaloc Lake. Floating cages were made available for tourists and other visitors to rent on Bunot Lake.  The green water rafting tour was organized in Pandin Lake by wives of fishermen in order to acquire additional income and to help their husbands earn money for their family.

Rafts can be rented on Pandin Lake. Wives of the fishermen serve as the sailors and this gives them extra income for their families.

Rafts can be rented on Pandin Lake. Wives of the fishermen serve as the sailors and this gives them extra income for their families.

As of July 2013, according to Reymina, there are already visible improvements on the lakes. The environmentalist said that the improvements since 2011, changes can be observed even on the air that we breathe around the lakes. The situation recently is now “better.”

According to Monina Eruno, a resident near the Sampaloc Lake, the project beneficial not only to those who live near the lake but also to other people visiting the lake. Hindi man nila malinis kaagad ang lawa, darating yung oras na babalik din ang lawa sa dati tulad ng kalinisan nun noong bata pa ako. (The lake may not be clean immediately but time will come that the lake will be back to the once clean and unpolluted lake when I was younger.)”

Although the project is already on its second year, according to Anyayahan, this is just the start of the rehabilitation. The members of the SLFFMC, with the residents, local government unit, as well as other members of the community will continue to work together for the rehabilitation of the San Pablo lakes.

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