University of the Philippines Los Baños
Tuesday, 22 November 2016 00:00

Forum seeks to come up with policies for a sustainable Laguna de Bay

LEAP group photos2

Photo courtesy of Pol Veluz

From lake to lake. It is from the vantage point of Taal Lake that the future of Laguna de Bay, another lake about 50 km away, is now being put “under the microscope.”

Representatives from academe, research organizations, the executive and legislative branches of government, people’s and non-government organizations, and civil society have converged at Summit Ridge Hotel in Tagaytay City, which overlooks Taal Lake, to talk about Laguna de Bay at the Lake Ecosystem Assessment in the Philippines (LEAP): A Science and Policy Forum for a Sustainable Laguna Lake Management.

The forum, which starts today aims to gather the inputs of experts and the locals in drafting policy recommendations for Laguna de Bay that will be submitted to the Department of Science and Technology and the UP System, and will be turned over to concerned government agencies.

A fearless and intelligent undertaking

In her welcome remarks during the opening program, Dr. Carla B. Dimalanta, UP assistant vice president for academic affairs (research), said that the Forum is a highlight of the UP-funded Emerging Interdisciplinary Research (EIDR) Program on Laguna de Bay.

The Program, entitled “Ten years after the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment of Laguna de Bay:  Towards a sustainable future,” integrates biophysical and social sciences to come up with decisions on how to restore the Lake.It is being implemented by the School of Environmental Science and Management (SESAM) and College of Forestry and Natural Resources in UPLB, and the UP Diliman National Institute of Geological Sciences.

Dr. Dimalanta described the Forum and the Program as a “brave attempt” to study Laguna de Bay, given the Lake’s enormous scope and multiple stakeholders.Dr. Maria Victoria O. Espaldon, program leader, professor at SESAM and UP Scientist, expressed agreement during the Forum overview, saying “This is a fearless team.” In Filipino, Dr. Espaldon said that courage/fearlessness and intelligence are needed in order to provide genuine solutions to the many problems facing Laguna de Bay. (“Tama sila, ang dami ngang problema ng Laguna Lake, at talagang kailangan ng tapang at talino para ito ay ating tunay na matugunan, lalo na ang mga hamon ng bagong panahon.”)

The message of Dr. Marieta B. Sumagaysay, executive director of the National Research Council of the Philippines (NRCP), corroborated Dr. Espaldon’s emphasis on an intelligent approach to save Laguna de Bay. “With the use of scientific data, policymaking will be science-based. The voice of the experts will be heard as a necessary ingredient in obtaining pertinent information for crafting policy recommendations in restoring Laguna Lake,” Dr. Sumagaysay said.

A persistent pursuit

Dr. Espaldon noted the Forum’s acronym reflects the big leap that has been done for Laguna de Bay. “We’ve been leaping for many years and we never get tired of taking another opportunity to make Laguna Lake clean again,” she said. “We know this is a big task, but we should never be afraid to tackle this head-on.”

Dr. Espaldon also cited the relevance of the EIDR Program to the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MEA) of the United Nations, which, upon probing the status of global ecosystems from 2000 to 2005, noted that the Laguna de Bay is deteriorating.

“Truly, it is an opportune time for us to look into how Laguna de Bay is faring ten years after the said assessment,” said Dr. Dalisay G. Fernandez, director of the Inland Aquatic Resources Division of the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development, in a message delivered on behalf of Science and Technology (DOST) Secretary Fortunato T. dela Pena.

Support from the legislative and executive branches

Nueva Ecjia Representative Estrellita B. Suansing, who also chairs the Lower House’s Committee on Ecology and Environment, also graced the Forum’s opening program. “This event is not only critical but also timely and urgent,” she said. “If we are not to act now, Laguna de Bay will soon be history. The drafting of a  multisectoral policy recommendation is an important output that will prevent its eventual death,” Congresswoman Suansing added. She also expressed her desire to champion the Lake’s cause in Congress.

On the other hand, Sec. Nereus O. Acosta, general manager of the Laguna Lake Development Authority, gave a comprehensive talk on the background and condition of the Lake. He emphasized the value of understanding the issues surrounding the Lake. “You cannot protect what you do not value and love, and you cannot value and love what you cannot understand,” he said.

The rest of Day 1 will highlight a scientific forum featuring plenary sessions on geophysical baselines, water quality, fisheries, tourism and other ecosystem services, socio-economics and research frontiers that reflect the current state of the Lake.

Day 2 (Nov. 23) will be dedicated to a policy forum on the Lake. Forum proceedings and a potential program template for lakes and wetlands in the Philippines are also expected to be produced from the two-day event.

Present at the Forum are Dr. Decibel V. Faustino-Eslava, dean of SESAM and program co-leader, and deans of other UPLB colleges, namely: Dr. Raden G. Piadozo of the College of Human Ecology and Dr. Virginia R. Cardenas of the College of Public Affairs and Development.

The Forum is organized by the SESAM, together with NRCP and the Environmental Management Bureau. Various agencies under DOST, as well as the GIZ, also provided funds for the Forum. (Mark Jayson E. Gloria)