May 23, 2019
OUR aspiration to save Laguna Lake has been reignited. Last week, Secretary Roy Cimatu of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) invited to a meeting myself and representatives from the Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA) led by General Manager Joey Medina; members of the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP), of which I am past president; civic groups such as Republic Defenders and Anak ng Inang Daigdig, and other organizations. The agenda of the meeting was how the private sector could assist in the efforts to rehabilitate Laguna Lake. I had the privilege to share our recommendations for Laguna Lake and other planning initiatives I was involved in. In addition, I also presented relevant maps and photos that could help form a clear picture of what the action plans need to be. According to Mr. Medina and LLDA Assistant General Manager Generoso Dungo, the pressing issues confronting Laguna Lake are the limited budget, the need to balance the coexistence of lake uses, and the need to harmonize proposed projects. The small budget allotment limits LLDA’s endeavors; it can only do so much with what they receive, which is why assistance from the private sector is very crucial. With regard to conflicting and coexisting lake uses, as an example, Mr. Medina cited the difference between the needs of fisheries within the lake and the requirements of the lake as a source of potable water. He pointed out that fisheries thrive with salt water intrusion coming through the Pasig River, which counters the lake’s need to maintain a minimum level of salinity as a source of drinking water. Other existing uses of the lake are fisheries, irrigation, transportation, power generation, industrial, and recreational. When it comes to harmonizing proposed projects for the lake, Mr. Generoso mentioned the abundance of proposals for reclamation and power generation projects. As part of MAP’s mobilization, the Steering Committee on Saving Laguna Lake Advocacy was formed, and the following task forces were created, namely: 1) lake rehabilitation and rejuvenation, and raw and wastewater treatment; 2) reforestation of the watershed; and 3) ferry ship transportation system and urban development.
Further to the article about Laguna Lake last week, I would like to explain more about our recommendations such as establishing a tourism circuit and enhancing waterfront development. The provinces around Laguna Lake are rich in history, culture and popular architectural tourism sites. The churches in the provinces of Rizal and Laguna are among the Philippines’ best-preserved colonial churches. During the Lenten season, local tourists flock to the religious structures near the lake because of their historical significance. Moreover, Laguna Lake enriched the livelihoods of and served as an inspiration to generations of artists and artisans living in lakeshore towns. The tourism zones we propose that are primarily for enhanced access to domestic tourism areas near the lake are: 1) Angono-Talim Zone; 2) Los Baños-Makiling Zone; and 3) Pagsanjan Zone. The Angono-Talim Zone will feature the exceptional art center in Angono, Rizal that boasts numerous art galleries and museums. Angono was the hometown of two national artists — Carlos “Botong” Francisco, the muralist, and Lucio San Pedro, the famous musician and composer of music. On the other hand, parts of Talim Island can be developed into a mountain resort and tourism-oriented fishing village. The Los Baños-Makiling Zone will highlight Los Baños’ hot spring resorts and university town and Makiling’s trails, rich flora and fauna, and natural wonders. The focal point of the Pagsanjan Zone will be Cavinti Falls, a popular tourist attraction, and the nearby towns of Paete and Pakil that are known for their traditional houses and woodcrafts. To support the development of these zones, a Tourist Information Center (TIC) must be established in every town included in the tourism circuit. These centers will provide valuable information that will guide tourists during their visits, and these must be complete with souvenir shops, restaurants, restrooms and rest areas, among others. Planning and creating more national parks will also strengthen environmental protection efforts in the Laguna de Bay region. National parks can help limit areas of urban and industrial development. As a result, areas of significant natural, historical and cultural value are delineated for protection and management.
To revive people’s appreciation for Laguna Lake, most especially those belonging to lakeshore communities, we at Palafox envision waterfront development that can improve the communities’ quality of life. Nowadays, we see that the resources of the lake are not evenly distributed. Our plan is to develop waterfronts that can promote social integration and will be enjoyed by all, whether they be fisherfolk, business owners, lakeshore residents or tourists. Through this, we want to reduce economic disparities and promote greater economic activities and endeavors for all. This gives us an opportunity to plan basic and support facilities such as small-scale agriculture, agro-forestry, harvest processing and the like that can harness the productive potential of the region’s communities and protect vulnerable groups. Through our urban and architectural plans, we want to provide vibrant, breathtaking, walkable, bikeable, and well-lit linear parks, promenades and open spaces that will boost a healthier way of life. Today, Laguna Lake is under threat. Instead of being treated as a “back of the house” waste disposal area, we need to be reminded that Laguna Lake is a natural treasure — a source of sustainable prosperity for everyone.
Before our meeting ended, Secretary Cimatu shared his mission for Laguna Lake, which comprises cleaning and rehabilitation and then concentrating on developing it. He expressed his gratitude to organizations that are eager to be involved in restoring and safeguarding the lake. The fight to rehabilitate Laguna Lake has been renewed. With strong political will and support and selfless acts of service and solidarity, let us reshape Laguna Lake’s narrative and turn it into a story of transformation we can all be proud of.
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