Threatened Lake of the Year 2014: Lake Sampaloc in Philippines

 

The environmental foundation Global Nature Fund (GNF) proclaims the Philippine’s Lake Sampaloc and the six other crater lakes in San Pablo City, Province Laguna, as the “Threatened Lake of the Year 2014”. In commemoration of World Wetlands Day, the GNF draws attention to the advancing destruction of the crater lakes. Together, GNF and the local Living Lakes partner organisation, Friends of the Seven Lakes Foundation (FSLF), demand for sustainable measures to protect Lake Sampaloc and to improve its water quality.

 
 Idyll impression at Lake Sampaloc
 

Interview with Bobby M. Azores, Chairman of Friends of the Seven Lakes Foundation

 

Question: Which are the most severe problems and challenges that Lake Sampaloc is facing?

 

Answer: Lake Sampaloc and the other six crater lakes are extremely threatened by human activities like illegal squatting along the shores and its resulting pollution, illegal fish-pens, overfeeding and crowding fish cages as well as by infrastructures near the lake used for commercial purposes. To protect Lake Sampaloc, it is important to clear the lake and shore areas of illegal constructions. These constructions include fish cages and homes of informal settlers. Through the years, we have had very small successes in this regard. We have lobbied and worked with the government agency in-charge to fix our problems. We have been unable to get the government to approve the aquaculture zoning map that would move and reorganize the fish cages to their designated aquaculture zone.

 

Question: Which is the main source of livelihood of the local population? What is the population size of San Pablo City?

 

Answer: San Pablo City is still considered to be and relying on an agricultural based economy. The population size is around 250,000.

 

Question: Is the fish cultured in the Seven Lakes mainly produced for the local market or merchandised on national or international level? Who are the big fish cage owners?

 

Answer: The fish that is cultured in fish cages of Lake Sampaloc is Tilapia. The Tilapia that is raised in Lake Sampaloc is mostly produced for the local market, not for national or international market. The big fish cage owners are mostly local big businessmen.

 

Question: What effects does the fish farming have on the biodiversity in and around the lakes?

 

Answer: As intensive fish culture on cages increases, the amount of dissolved oxygen being consumed by the fish themselves and organisms that are involved in the decomposition process of all organic matters like the uneaten fish feed and domestic waste constantly being dumped in the lake waters. We can only surmise that the depletion of dissolved oxygen will have an adverse effect on the ecological balance . Indiscriminate floating net fishing methods using fine mesh nets are victimizing even small fish fry and the rare species of small diving duck that was once regular visitor in our lake waters is caught in and tangles in the nets as the fishermen string the nets held afloat by makeshift floating device for several meters near the shorelines.

 

Question: Is Lake Sampaloc a drinking water resource?

 

Answer: Lake Sampaloc is not a source of drinking water now. Drinking water around the lake is available and this comes from natural springs along the side of the lakes.

 

Question: Is the local population aware of the problems at Lake Sampaloc?

 

Answer: The general population is very much aware of the problems, but very few have actually devoted their time, talent and treasure to find solutions for this cause. The local populace is content with just being able to do their recreational activities and spending time around the lake. The few that have joined the organizations give up out of frustration with the way our national government seems to be slow and unresponsive to our plea. We are counting on the new local government, specially our Mayor, to take the lead in the protection of our seven crater lakes.

 

Question: What are possible solutions for the problems at Lake Sampaloc?

 

Answer: If the concerned government agency is able to enforce the fish cage policy of allowing only 10 % of the surface area to be used for aquaculture including fishcages, then the problems of Lake Sampaloc will be gradually reduced. If the fisherfolk are taught other livelihood opportunities and fish cages are totally eliminated, then Lake Sampaloc will truly become a living lake.  A Tourism Master Plan is currently being studied by a multisectoral committee created by the new City Mayor.

Alternative sources of income for the resettled fisherfolk is also one of the areas being addressed by our local government as part of the plan to retrain the displaced informal lake dwellers and fisherfolk. Alternative aquaculture methods such as inland fish culture is being encouraged in lieu of having fish cages in the lakes. Technical and vocational skills training will also be offered as part of the alternative livelihood programs.

 

Question: What is the view of the fish farmers?

 

Answer: The fisherfolk are receptive to the idea of alternative forms of livelihood for as long as they will get assistance and/or support to develop other trades or skills for themselves and their families.

 

Question: Are they supporting the planned eco-tourism campaign?

 

Answer: Yes, the fisherfolk are supporting the Eco-Tourism campaign. They have been part of the consultation process that has been ongoing for over a decade now.

 

Question: Which is the role and what are main actions of Friends of the Seven Lakes Foundation?

 

Answer: The main role of FSLF is to provide a constant reminder to the local and national government of the importance of taking care of our natural resources with the emphasis on our water. This is specially so because our City is blessed with an abundant supply of water coming from the watershed in the surrounding mountains. FSLF continues to pursue its advocacy with the children and youth of San Pablo City throughout the year with programs such as eco-camps, lake clean-ups, tree planting and other activities from the meagre donations that we solicit from local donors and from among our members. It is important for us to train our young people to become the future environmental stewards of the City.

 

Question: What do you expect from the proclamation of Lake Sampaloc as Threatened Lake of the Year 2014?

 

Answer: We hope to convince our national government and the agency concerned to give more attention and importance to the environmental issues facing our very unique seven volcanic crater lakes. Water as the key to the survival of all living things, is one of the most important natural resources on earth that should never be taken for granted. Instead, we should make extra efforts to maintain and protect it. If the concerned agency of our government will maintain its position that they are unable to address the problems of our lakes due to lack of budget and manpower, we will have to resort to appealing to international organizations that would understand our concerns. First, we will lobby for the provision of housing so that the informal settlers can move to the relocation site. Second, we will appeal for assistance so that the floating fish cages can be relocated to their designated aquaculture zone along the lake. Addressing these two lingering and seemingly simple issues can create a major impact on the lake in terms of improvement of the water quality and the development and implementation of a Tourism Master Plan for the City.

 
 Bobby Azores
 Fish cages in Lake Mojicap
 Algaes on the surface of Lake Sampaloc
 Lake Sampaloc: Detail of the fish cages
 House at the shore line of Lake Sampaloc
 Clean up the Lake Sampaloc in 2007
 Water testing in 2006
 Proposed fish cage relocation plan in Lake Sampaloc
 Lake Sampaloc
 Floating fish cages in Lake Sampaloc
 

Contact

 

Friends of the Seven Lakes Foundation (FSLF)

Bobby M. Azores (Chairman)

Farmers Building, Malvar Street

San Pablo City, Laguna 4000, Philippines

Phone: +6349-573-7133

E-mail: friends7lakes@gmail.com

Website: www.freewebs.com/fslf

 

Global Nature Fund (GNF)

Udo Gattenlöhner (Executive Director)

Fritz-Reichle-Ring 4

78315 Radolfzell, Germany

Phone: +49 - (0) 77 32 - 99 95 - 80

Fax: +49 - (0) 77 32 - 99 95 - 88

E-mail: gattenloehner@globalnature.org

Website: www.globalnature.org