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City council backs Laguna Lakeshore Road Network despite opposition from fisherfolk, environmental activists

Muntinlupa City Council interposes “no objection” to LLRN, despite calls from environmentalists and fisherfolk to halt the millions-worth project.

Words by Alex Delis

Despite potential danger to the lake and livelihood of fisherfolk, Laguna Lakeshore Road Network (LLRN) Project is still in the works, backed by the Muntinlupa City Council after endorsing its construction.

Last July 25, Muntinlupa City Council passed a resolution during its regular session interposing “no objection” and “favorable endorsement” to the LLRN project.

In line with the approval, submission of clearances and permits must be done by the following offices: Environment Sanitation Center, Lake Management Office, Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA), Barangay, City Building Office, and Business Permit and License Office. 

The LLRN project is a road network scheme to be constructed near Laguna Lake to “facilitate traffic flow” from Laguna to the southern part of Metro Manila. It is subdivided into two phases, wherein Phase 1 will stretch along the western coastline of Laguna Lake, while Phase 2 runs from North to South coastline through an eastern route.

Phase 1 of the road network is undergoing the Detailed Engineering Design phase, with an allotted budget of P135.485 million

With an estimated length of 37 kilometers, most of the roads in Phase 1 can be found along the shoreline of Laguna Lake, where the alignment begins in Lower Bicutan in Taguig City and ends in Calamba City.

The LLRN project is one of the seven projects of Infrastructure Preparation and Innovation Facility (IPIF) under the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) that aims to produce innovative infrastructure works in the Philippines.

DPWH partnered with LLDA in planning the implementation of the construction of the project. LLDA is a quasi-government agency that aims to further strengthen “environmental protection and jurisdiction over the lake basin’s surface water”. 

LLRN is also a flagship project under Build Build Build (BBB) program, or former President Rodrigo Duterte’s so-called “centerpiece economic program”. 

A facade that showcases economic development and doorway for tourism, BBB continues to aggravate environmental problems and displacement of Filipinos. Testaments to these are the construction of New Manila International Airport (NMIA) in Bulacan and Kaliwa Dam in Quezon and Rizal that pose detrimental effects to the environment, livelihood, and shelters of residents (READ: What the Build! Build! Build! Program truly destroys). 

Meanwhile, President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. vowed in his inaugural speech to continue the BBB program with a “comprehensive” infrastructure plan.

Laguna Lakeshore Road Network Project.
Photo from DPWH

Opposition on the road construction

Many environmental groups and activists express strong opposition to the LLRN project due to similar reasons for other destructive BBB projects.

According to the group Save Laguna Lake Movement (SLLM) Laguna, this project will kill the local ecosystem of the lake and impede the livelihood of fisherfolk in the area. 

Sa Taguig-Muntinlupa, magkakaroon ng reklamasyon/dredging para makagawa ng off-shore viaduct sa mismong lawa, na sisira sa lake bed at magiging sanhi ng polusyon. Sa bahaging Laguna naman, itatayo ang highway sa baybay-lawa at magreresulta sa malawakang demolisyon ng kabahayanan at pagharang sa mga mangingisda at mga nagbabaklad,SLLM explained. 

[“In Taguig-Muntinlupa, there will be reclamation/dredging to create an off-shore viaduct along the lake that will destroy the lake bed and will cause pollution. In Laguna, the highway will be constructed along the shoreline of the lake and will lead to demolition of houses, and it will also affect the livelihood of fishermen.”] 

Off-shore viaducts are bridge-like structures located near a body of water that aims to support a long elevated roadway or railroad. For the road network project, the viaducts to be built consist of three parts, which are lake viaduct, embankment viaduct, and land viaduct. 

DPWH proposed fishing ports for the affected fishermen that include approach canal, warning and marking buoys, lighthouse, navigational aids, walkways, among many others. Appropriate assistance will also be given to the affected groups to manage the adverse effects, according to the agency.

Moreover, it was also proposed that barangays near the shoreline should have at least one fishery basin where fish boats can fit into, to avoid excessive relocation of the fisherfolk. However, DPWH admittedly stated in the LLRN project report that some fishermen and their fish pans might still need to relocate upon the construction of the viaducts.  

Due to this, environmental groups and fisherfolks alike push for rehabilitation and green recovery of the lake instead of continuing the road project.

Militant fisherfolk group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA) condemns the construction of the LLRN project, which they refer to as a “pretext” to the Laguna Lakeshore Expressway Dike Project (LLEDP).

Proposed during the term of the late President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, LLEDP is described as an expressway dike from Bicutan to Los Baños that will manage traffic flow and control flooding in the western coastal communities along Laguna Lake. However, the expressway dike brings peril.

Due to reclaiming 700 hectares of the lake bed that will reduce the lake size, floods will be higher than before. But since the aim of the dike is to protect Metro Manila and areas near the lake from lake-water floods, the flood water will go elsewhere but not near the lake. Hence, residents living far from Laguna Lake may experience severe flooding. Meanwhile, those living near the lake will be displaced from their lands and homes upon building this dike. 

The expressway dike project did not push through due to failed bidding in 2016. Consequently, the LLRN project was birthed during the Duterte administration.

“The newly-proposed road project in Laguna Lake is nothing but a government’s ploy to complete its longstanding LLEDP dream… the government comes up with a new, different name to pacify the outrage of the people,” said PAMALAKAYA and SLLM in a joint statement in 2017. 

Aside from displacement and livelihood issues, the road network project may also worsen waste pollution in Laguna Lake.

In an exclusive interview by the Perspective, the publication asked a resident residing near the lake about his sentiments regarding the LLRN project.

He said, “Para sa’kin, siguro pwede ‘yon [LLRN] maging tama para sa mga tao dito kung mapapabilis nito ‘yung [flow ng] transportasyon. Kaso para sa mga taga dito sa tabing lawa, baka yung lugar na pagtatayuan ay gawin tapunan. Wala namang nagbabantay 24/7 [sa lugar], walang guarantee na hindi ‘yon magiging tapunan.

[“For me, LLRN can be good for people if it can help in facilitating transportation flow. However, for those residing near the lake, the place can be a waste disposal. No one will monitor the place 24/7, thus, there is no guarantee that no one will dump waste there.”]

For years, Laguna Lake has been battling serious pollution primarily due to human activities. 

Laguna Lake in 2016.
Photo from PAMALAKAYA

Forsaken lake

Known as the largest lake in the Philippines, Laguna Lake supplies 10% of all aquaculture production and 17% of all fisheries production in the country. The lake is also a biodiversity spot where algae and aquatic plant species can be found. 

However, the lake faces many environmental threats mainly due to water pollution, overfishing, industrial waste, reclamation, and sedimentation. 

Another massive concern is how the lake causes knee- to waist-deep flood during the aftermath of a typhoon. After Typhoon Ulysses struck in late 2020, communities near the shoreline experienced severe flooding that lasted for months. 

According to one of the residents near the lake, even light rainfalls cause flooding in their area. This took a toll on the health and livelihood of the residents.

“Iyong kalsada namin wala nang transportation na makakaraan. Ang nagiging transportation namin kapag ganon ay bangka. Magdodoble po ‘yung pamasahe bago makarating sa bayan,” she explained in an exclusive interview with the Perspective. 

[“No form of vehicles can pass through in our street. The only available transportation are boats. This causes doubling of fare before we could reach the city.”]

Dr. Decibel Faustino-Eslava, dean of the School of Environmental Science and Management (SESAM) in UPLB, explained that the sedimentation causes overflowing of the Laguna Lake. Decades of uncontrolled or unregulated upland developments primarily caused this sedimentation (READ: We talked to a UP scientist to understand why Laguna Lake keeps on flooding its shore communities). 

LLRN is one of the many development projects that can potentially worsen the condition of Laguna Lake, while promoting eco-tourism that caters to tourists and big industries

Hindi tayo tutol sa kaunlaran, pero tutol tayo kapag hindi nito pinapaunlad ang buhay ng mamamayang Pilipino,” SLLM asserted.

[“We are not against progress, but we oppose it if it will not improve the lives of the Filipino people.”] [P]

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