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Moratorium on Buhi Fishing Mulled

“Drastic” measures proposed to save lake
Lake Buhi in Camarines, Philippines
Lake Buhi in Camarines, Philippines viewed in Google Earth

BUHI, CAMARINES SUR (16 Nov 2010) —A THREE YEAR Moratorium which will prohibit the operation of commercial fish cages, and confining fish cage operations to only 10% of the lake area are among the drastic measures being proposed by an inter-agency group now conducting studies on the worsening pollution in Lake Buhi.

These measures, together with the dismantling of illegal fish cages and the non-issuance of new fishing licenses, were proposed by concerned agencies during a joint Sangguniang Panlalawigan and Sangguniang Bayan of Buhi session held in this town the other day to probe the fish kill incident that resulted to some P 80-Million in losses to the Tilapia-raising industry in this lake town.

In a report at the joint session, the provincial government’s Environment Disaster Management Response Office (EDMERO) and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) regional office stated that Buhi lake-waters had increasing levels of hydrogen sulphite and ammonia from decaying fish feeds and sediments that have settled in the lake bottom and had resulted to decreased oxygen levels which in turn caused the fish kill.

Experts revealed that acquired soil samples in the lake bottom consist of 70% residue and 30% soil, an alarming condition that is contributing to the warming of temperatures in the lake bottom.


In his address to the joint session, Buhi Mayor Rey Lacoste lamented that only the local government of Buhi seems to get the blame for the worsening environmental degradation of the lake’s eco-system when major government agencies are benefited from its lake resources.

Lacoste noted that the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) has its control structure in the lake which is the source of irrigation for some 18,000 hectares of rice lands in the Rinconada and 3rd districts of Camarines Sur; while the former National Power Corp. (NPC) controls the Baret Hydro-Electric Plant power generation now managed by the People Energy Service Inc.

The Mayor said that these agencies have control over the lake resources but had not contributed to preserve the lake ecology.

He also said that based on President Marcos’ Presidential Proclamation 873 and Executive Order 224, the NPC still has administrative management control over 8,317 hectares of watershed areas of Buhi, including areas of the lake.

He added that even with the advent of the Local Government Code of 1991, the lake resources are not solely owned by the local government.

During the same joint session, Camarines Sur Board member Angel Naval, Chair of the environment committee, had proposed that stakeholders of the lake including some 600-strong commercial fish-cage operators should establish a maintenance fund for the ecological sustainability of the lake.

Trapped sediments       

Meanwhile Buhi councilor Edwin Salvamante revealed that millions of tons of residual siltation were trapped at the bottom of the lake unable to freely flow at the NIA’s control structure due to a coffer dam made from armour rocks blocking the flow of sediments from the lake.

Reportedly, the coffer dam that was built as a barrier during the construction of the NIA control structure at the lake in 1986 has not been removed by the NIA until today.

NPC experts claimed about 9,900,000 cubic meters of sediments were trapped in the lake since 2001; present estimates are at 16,200,000 cubic meters or about five meters thick.

Currently, with more than 20,000 fish cages in the lake operated by about 600 fish cages operators, and more than 400 marginal fishermen, the lake area had also shrunk from 1,800 hectares to about 1,618 hectares according to a recent Global  Positioning System (GPS) survey.

In the meantime, Vice-Gov. Fortunato Peña said during the session that Gov. Luis-Raymund Villafuerte has expressed concern on the thousands that may be displaced once a moratorium on the fish cages is imposed as an extreme necessity to save the lake.