Laguna residents appeal not to suspend Laguna de Bay rehab project

August 23, 2010 11:20 am 

MANILA, Aug. 23 -– Saying they do not want a repeat of the devastation caused by typhoon Ondoy, fishermen and residents in the Laguna de Bay area are appealing to President Benigno Simeon Aquino III not to suspend the controversial P18.5-billion Laguna de Bay rehabilitation project.

They signed a petition asking the President to let the project continue since it would benefit not only them but the 13 million people living around the lake region.

During the onslaught of typhoon Ondoy last year, water level of Laguna de Bay increased by 14 meters that caused massive flooding in many towns in Laguna and Rizal. The floodwater receded only after several weeks since the channel feeding excess water to Pasig River en route to Manila Bay was heavily silted.

The call was made amid an order from Malacanang to suspend the implementation of the Laguna de Bay rehabilitation project as President Aquino wants authorities to verify whether or not the PhP18 billion funding is an official development assistance from Belgium.

On June 9, former Justice Secretary Alberto Agra issued an opinion which said the project was not covered by Government Procurement Act (Republic Act 9184) since it was financed through official development assistance (ODA).

The project is funded by the official development assistance (ODA) from the Belgian government and Fortis Bank, a subsidiary of the BNP Paribas of France.

The latest petition also scored Belgian firm Jan de Nul for trying to block the project.

In 2008, another Belgian firm Baggerwerken Decloedt En Zoon (BDC) undertook extensive studies of the lake since 2008 and crafted a proposal on the basis of its analysis of the silt, the volume of water of the lake and the amount of waste that gets into the water body from agricultural, residential and industrial sources.

The rehabilitation project calls for dredging the lake bed and the Napindan Channel and taking out 9.84 million cubic meters of silt, making it deeper than the current average of two meters and reclaiming five areas for the establishment of wastewater treatment facilities, four sewerage treatment plants and the construction of 12 ferry stations.

The water quality of the lake, however, would not improve unless it is dredged to accommodate a bigger volume of the liquid during the rainy season and act as a repository of water from 21 rivers and creeks.

BDC said it would also establish fishports right next to the ferry stations for the benefit of the consumers and fishermen alike. (PNA)LOR/PR

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