By Erwin M. Mascariñas, 7th January 2016;
A village executive and residents in Mainit and adjacent towns in the province of Surigao del Norte are calling for an environmental forum to push for further investigation into the environmental state of Lake Mainit, the country’s deepest and fourth largest lake.
The local folk are seeking more scientific inquiry in the light of a massive fish kill event in November 2015, which caused several fishing communities to suffer huge livelihood and economic loses.
“The fish kill affected the way of life of hundreds of families around the lake. Unfortunately we still don’t have a clear idea as to the cause of the problem and the state of health of our lake,” said Gaudencio Mondano, village executive of barangay Quezon, one of the 21 barangays in the town of Mainit.
On January 28, the village leaders plan to conduct an environmental forum regarding their concerns. “We have invited technical experts from non-government organizations and concerned government agencies for the purpose.”
There are four towns surrounding Mainit Lake, and the majority of the residents rely on fishing as their principal source of income.
“We will also invite other local executives from the other towns. Just in this village, we have about 200 fishing families who are affected by the fish kill. Even if they drop the price of the harvested fish to P20 per kilogram, still almost nobody would buy for fear that the fish might be contaminated,” Mondano added.
“We want to know what is happening in the lake, we want to know from the government agencies about their plans and actions that need to be taken. We need to form a consensus as to what can be done to prevent the same situation from repeating itself in the future. We also need to know if the ongoing mining operation near our area has something to do with the possible poisoning of our lake,” Mondano concluded.
Zimmbodilion Mosende, a local environmental advocate in the town of Mainit who also serves as Strategic Information Adviser at UNAIDS expressed his concern on the environmental situation of the lake: “Until now there is still no clear information regarding what really caused the problem. We have results citing low dissolved oxygen from a news interview with the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) Caraga office, but as to how the situation became that way, and why, we are still in the dark.”
Mosende added that his concern, and that of his town mates, is the immediate resolution of the environmental issue.
“The people who are living around the lake, the communities, are the ones who are greatly affected. We need more tests on the lake and forensics on the fish and, if possible, another independent body should do another test. We call on the appropriate government agency to immediately investigate the cause of the fish kill and inform the public on the safety of the fish as food, give us advice regarding the fish catch, and disseminate information about how to prevent future fish kills,” said Mosende, who also runs a blog on the environmental concerns surrounding the lake and other related issues affecting the area.
Lake Mainit is the fourth largest lake in the Philippines with an estimated surface area of 173.40 square kilometers and has the deepest bottom in the country, with a maximum depth reaching 223 meters.
Four towns are situated around Lake Mainit, namely: Mainit and Alegria in Surigao del Norte province, and Jabonga and Kitcharao in Agusan del Norte province.