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Tough Choices

Early this month we stated that in order to begin saving Lake Buhi, the strict implementation of the Fisheries Code provision that only 10 percent of the total area of any lake be occupied by fish cages ought to be effected. This, we admitted, had very troubling direct consequences to the economy of Buhi where majority of the inhabitants are largely dependent on the fishing industry.      

In the recent joint session between the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Camarines Sur and Sangguniang Bayan of Buhi, the above measure together with other “bitter pills” for the lake-side municipality had been proposed by invited experts to save the lake whose waters had been confirmed to be dangerously polluted. These “pills” include a moratorium on the operations of fish cages, the review and possible revocation of fishing permits, and the cessation of issuance of new fishing permits.

The experts’ final recommendations are still pending until the impact assessment of the proposed measures had been completed; yet, it is becoming apparent that Buhi and its LGU will have to make difficult choices soon. For it is clear that the current condition of the lake’s eco-system endangers the very industry which had since throve in it: fish kills will continue if the pollution of the lake persists and remain unaddressed.

As the town of Buhi makes the tough choices in the face of this environmental and social problem, the provincial and national governments must put into place the needed safety nets that will allow support for the said municipality and its community members. An obvious example of these is available funding for alternative livelihoods.

These safety nets, following the well-known proverb, must not just provide the people with fish, but instead must teach them to fish for themselves. Albeit in this case, these safety nets must teach the people of Buhi to fish elsewhere other than the lake.   

Still, if long-term considerations are taken into account, and following the above appraisal of the situation, then such a difficult decision must be undertaken by the municipality who stands to lose the most when the Lake dies. In other words, Buhi may just have to limit its Tilapia production if only to save its proverbial goose that lays the golden eggs.