Transforming the Lake
Wake the Lake
Laguna Lake Development Authority
(LLDA) General Manager Jaime Medina
hits hard at illegal fish pen operators,
restoring the balance and reviving
the country’s largest freshwater lake,
BY JOYCE REYES-AGUILA
The shorelines of certain parts of Metro Manila and nearby provinces have long shared an affinity with the mighty Laguna de Bay—the country’s biggest freshwater lake, and the third largest in Southeast Asia. It feeds some 100 rivers and streams, and is a widely recognized source of food and livelihood for many. The many roles of this 900 sq-km expanse of water include supporting businesses and small enterprises,
providing electricity and water, and serving as a floodwater reservoir. The relevance of the lake to the country is the pillar of Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA) General Manager Jaime “Joey” C.
Medina’s drive to ensure its sustainability and to look after the welfare of the most vulnerable Filipinos who depend on it. The LLDA chief is armed with a directive from no less than President Rodrigo Duterte himself who, during his first State of the Nation Address, instructed Medina and the agency to transform Laguna de Bay “into a vibrant economic zone showcasing ecotourism by addressing the negative impact
of a watershed destruction, land conversion, and pollution.”
MAN OF ACTION
Taking on a significant administrative role is not new to the Political Science graduate of the Ateneo de Manila University. Medina was mayor of Pateros for three consecutive terms for which his adroit
governance was recognized. The city’s competitive index— measured by the productivity of its schools, roads, financial markets, and consumers according to the Philippines National Competitive Council—
rose in rankings during his terms in office. Pateros received numerous recognitions, including the Seal of
Excellence Award in Population Development in 2014, and the Kaagapay Award in Urban Poor Solidarity Week from the Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor Commission in 2015.
Known for being a man of action, he did not surprise many when he oversaw a demolition of structures in the lake on his= second day of office. It was a clear demonstration of the LLDA’s renewed commitment
to effect change. “We targeted the structure of big corporations, many of which abused the system,” he tells League. “Many were given permits for five hectares but built structures 60 to 80 hectares big. These blocked many navigational lanes intended for transportation. Some of these structures are located outside designated areas, and many also did not have permits to operate.” As of January 2018, the general manager estimates that a total of 2,100 hectares of these illegal structures have been demolished under his leadership, the highest number of demolished structures. This is equivalent to the land area of
the entire city of Makati.
In line with the President’s order to prioritize smaller fisherfolk in the Lake’s development, Medina is
making sure that they are given priority when permits to operate are issued. “I will not prioritize the big corporations because they are already rich,” explains Medina, who previously led different councils
and committees in the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) on solid waste, health, regional peace and order, and public works. “Our challenge is how we can prevent small fisherfolk from being used
as dummy entities of these corporations.”
A general registration of the fisherfolk and their families is being coordinated with different local government units (LGUs) to collect biometrics and ensure that the right recipients benefit from planned government projects. Medina estimates that 22,000 smaller fisherfolk and around 125,000 to 150,000
of their family members will benefit from the livelihood programs being fashioned.
L"LDA GM Medina is pushing for awareness about the lake’s potential for transportation to aid the worsening traffic situation in Metro Manila, particularly the 16 million residents who live around Laguna de Bay"