LOS BAŇOS, Laguna — The Department of Agriculture (DA) and its Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources launched on Monday its “BASIL: Balik Sigla sa Ilog at Lawa” program to rejuvenate the country’s seven major lakes, among them the Laguna de Bay and six major river basins across the country.
The launch on the occasion of the DA’s 119th anniversary celebration at the lakeside old municipal hall in Barangay Baybayin here gathered a big crowd of agriculture and fisheries officials, local government executives, farmers and fisherfolks in the Calabarzon region.
DA Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said the BASIL project from 2017-2022 aims to replenish the country’s inland waters with both indigenous and commercially valuable non-invasive fish species and freshwater aquatic resources.
Pinol was joined by Senator Cynthia Villar, chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food; Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA) General Manager Jaime Medina; and Los Baños Mayor Caesar Perez during the initial dispersal of some five million fingerlings of “tilapia,” “bangus” (milkfish) and freshwater shrimps at the Laguna de Bay.
Pinol added the project will optimize the major water resources, their economic benefits, enhance fisheries towards sustainability, and repopulate indigenous species in support of biodiversity conservation and food sufficiency.
“The project would make food accessible to poor families living near the lakes, rivers and streams as an initial step to address poverty and food security concerns as part of the DA mandate and responsibility,” Piñol said.
As the DA’s celebration coincides with Dr. Jose Rizal’s 156th birthday celebration, Pinol said Rizal’s writings described the beauty and bounty of the Laguna Lake where the national hero used to travel up to Manila and nearby towns.
“Now, we see the neglect to our lakes and rivers and institute change through the BASIL Project as the DA’s intervention to revive them and the seeding of some 210 million fingerlings in the country’s vital bodies of water,” Piñol said.
He also urged the local government units in the perimeter of the water resources to be responsible and engage in the revival and rejuvenation of the lakes and rivers.
The BASIL project has five main components that include social preparation and capacity building; resource profiling; habitat restoration; rationalized fisheries enhancement and monitoring and evaluation.
The 210 million fingerlings to be seeded across the country’s lakes and rivers are indigenous species like ayungin, biya, martiniko, kanduli, dalag, hito and the economically acceptable fish species like tilapia and bangus, among others.
For Laguna de Bay (Laguna Lake), the rejuvenation to enhance the lake’s open water fisheries include habitat improvement; fingerling dispersal; enhancement of existing sanctuaries; social preparation and mobilization of fisherfolk organizations to manage their resources and capacity building of women’s groups engaged in processing and value-adding of fishery products.
Aside from the Laguna de Bay, other big bodies of water across the country include Lanao Lake, Lake Mainit, Buluan Lake, Naujan Lake, Lake Sebu and Taal Lake.
The country’s vital river basins that are also up for rehab are Cagayan River, Abra River, Agusan River, Bicol River, Pampanga River, Mindanao River and Agno River.
During the launching, DA also turned over fingerlings worth PHP 3.65 million, from the package of government interventions of more than PHP 56.3 million, were also distributed to 1,478 fishers in the Calabarzon Region.
Other livelihood support and assistance packages amounting to Php 15.7 million pesos to 658 beneficiaries include four knifefish retrieval “cash for work”; 600 gill nets and 500 kitang for knifefish; 200 motorized bancas, five single-engine patrol boats; 85 ACPC loan assistance and another cash for work or livelihood assistance for coastal clean-up.
Regional livelihood assistance worth Php 40.6 million pesos were awarded to 820 beneficiaries with the apportioned 70 motor engine units; 900 crab pot; 195 lantern lights; 200 life vests; 10 double-engine patrol boats; eight community fish landing centers; 100 fish stalls; 50 fish cages; four BUP projects; 570,000 magrove propagules and 230 seaweeds farm implements. Saul E. Pa-a/PNA-northboundasia.com