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Saving Buhi

The municipality of Buhi headed by Mayor Rey Lacoste had recently met with a catastrophe in the form of an enormous tilapia fishkill which has been estimated to have reached 100 metric tons. The huge loss this entailed for the tilapia fish cage owners, small fishermen, and local fish vendors is reportedly staggering: Php 80 Million.

In the wake of this unfortunate occurrence, the reconsideration of Lake Buhi's protection becomes palpably paramount not only for the local LGU, but also for the government's Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR). This is an opportune moment to strictly implement the Fisheries Code provision that only 10 percent of the total area of any lake must be occupied by fishpens.

Similarly, the local LGU ought to consider seriously the study made by BFAR's own fisheries expert Aida S. Andayog whose recommendation of reducing the heavy pollutants of the lake entails some tough choices for the municipality.

According to the study, a "skip-feeding system" needs to be implemented by Tilapia fish cage owners in order to cut down on the feeds whose residues now pollute the lake. With "more than 5,000 Tilapia fish cages now occupying 70% of some 1,700 hectares of Buhi's lake area," the volume of feeds and their ensuing waste products being dumped on the lake arguably pose as a serious threat to the lake's eco-system.

What is clearly troubling from the above assessment is the inference that we may reach: the number of fish cages must be limited for the sake of Lake Buhi and all those who benefit from its resources. Since supposedly around 80% of Buhi's inhabitants are engaged (directly or otherwise) in fish farming in the Lake, any decision which would effect a reduction in the number of fish pens would be politically unpopular.

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.