The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) assured that there's going to be no let-up in the campaign to clear Laguna de Bay of all illegal structures even if it would turn to a loss of P50 million in revenues for the Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA).

DENR Undersecretary and National Anti-Environmental Crime Task Force (NAECTF) head Art Valdez, who is in charge of the Laguna Lake clearing operations together with LLDA General Manager Jaime Medina, said the DENR would be willing to provide technical support to the LLDA to make up for the projected revenue losses so as the latter can continue to fulfill its mandate.

“The dismantling operation remains a priority in NAECTF's order of battle, and the DENR support, which is meant to boost the law enforcement capabilities of LLDA, will increasingly become stronger in the days to come,” Valdez said.

Last January 26, the DENR and the LLDA started a massive operation to clear Laguna Lake of illegal structures, including large fish pens and cages, on orders of DENR Secretary Gina Lopez and President Rodrigo Duterte.

The dismantling operation came more than one month after the DENR declared a one-year moratorium on the issuance of permits for fish pens and cages in Laguna Lake starting January this year. This means that all structures within the lake are now considered illegal.

The moratorium is expected to result in revenue losses for the LLDA to the tune of P50 million. The agency usually collects fees and charges from fishpen operators.

The DENR will also help the LLDA in the rehabilitation of the entire lake, which includes addressing illegal dumping of household, industrial and chemical wastes, he added.

During the resumption of the dismantling operation on Feb. 14, the demolition team dismantled two fishpens covering a total of 76 hectares in Laguna Lake. The structures are owned by Seven Eleven Fishing Corp. and Habagat Multipurpose Cooperative, both in Binangonan town in Rizal province.

Backed by operatives from the Philippine Coast Guard and the Philippine National Police, the demolition team was joined by several volunteers from the Diocese of San Pablo City in Laguna led by Fr. JL Calampiano, head of the Diocese’s Ministry on Ecology.

The operation also targeted a newly-constructed 200 sq. meter-bunkhouse near the HMC fishpen.

“This is an open defiance to the order,” Media said, referring to the newly-constructed bunkhouse, which based on LLDA monitoring reports, the structure was built only in the early part of February.

Medina also indicated his plan to raise the number of LLDA field monitoring officers from six to 12, noting that the lake is divided into six sectors with only one monitoring officer per sector.

Zone A consists of Muntinlupa City and Taguig City in Metro Manila, and San Pedro in Laguna; Zone B includes Binan, Sta. Rosa, Calamba Los Banos and Pila, also in Laguna; Zone C - Sta. Cruz, Pakil, Kalayaan, also in Laguna; Zone D covers Cardona Main, Tanay, Pililia Jala-Jala in Rizal; Zone E covers Binangonan main; and Zone F - Binangonan, Cardona and Talim Island in Rizal.

The operation is in line with President Duterte's directive in his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) to dismantle big fish pens and cases in Laguna Lake to allow small fishermen to gain access to traditional fishing grounds.

The DENR and LLDA plan to finish the clearing operation by the middle of the year, in time for the President's second SONA in July. ###