Press Release
March 27, 2012

Legarda Urges Nationwide Clean-up of Waterways, Stresses Environmental Aspect of Recent Red Tide Episodes

Senator Loren Legarda urged the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and local government units to immediately implement clean-up measures for rivers, lakes, seas, and other waterways, stressing the environmental aspect of recent red tide episodes.

Legarda made the call following the latest bulletin issued by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) on the coastal areas affected by harmful algal bloom, more commonly known as red tide. Based on the red tide alert, shellfishes collected at Dumanquillas Bay in Zamboanga del Sur, Murcielagos Bay in Zamboanga del Norte and Misamis Occidental, Masinloc Bay in Zambales, Matarinao Bay in Eastern Samar, and the coastal waters of both Bataan and Pangasinan remain positive for paralytic shellfish poison, making them unfit for human consumption.

Senator Legarda, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Climate Change, noted that while its definite cause remains unknown, marine scientists have included massive discharges of human and industrial wastes into the country's waterways and sudden changes in seawater temperature as possible factors for red tide outbreaks in the country.

"Since 1983, there have been 103 occurrences of red tide in the country affecting 35 coastal communities. Until our marine scientists have pointed out the exact cause of the explosive growth in harmful algae, it is important that we undertake measures minimizing likely contributory factors such as untreated human and industrial wastes dumped directly into the sea. This includes the use of treatment facilities for waste discharge and the clean-up of our waterways," the Senator explained.

"I strongly urge the DENR to coordinate with local government units in their clean-up operations of the country's rivers, lakes, seas, and other waterways. With almost 1.5 million Filipinos directly employed in the fishery sector, it is imperative that we address this possible cause of red tide incidence."

Legarda urged multi-stakeholder collaboration in improving waste disposal practices. In agricultural areas, farmers and communities must improve fertilizer management to protect waterways from excessive nutrient loads.

The BFAR warns that local fishing communities are "likely to collapse as these red tide outbreaks contaminate coastal resources". For example, around 1,856 mussel gatherers/growers are displaced due to the red tide incidence affecting coastal waters in Bataan. In a 2005 World Bank report, it has been estimated that the country suffered US$ 30 Million in losses due to red tide during the 1990s. Coincidentally, this was also a decade when the country saw severe weather disturbances due to the El Nino phenomenon.

"Responsibilities have long been defined under the Clean Water Act of 2004 and the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000. The quality of our waterways and the resulting state of marine life clearly affect issues of public health, food, and livelihood. The DENR, Department of Agriculture and LGUs should act together at full speed for improved land and water quality management, which ultimately redounds to hunger mitigation and poverty alleviation in coastal communities." Legarda concluded.

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