The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has assured that appropriate measures will be undertaken to make sure the recent fish kill in the Las Piñas-Paranaque Wetland Park (LPPWP) will not affect the ongoing rehabilitation efforts in Manila Bay.

DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu said the agency is “looking deeply” into the cause of the fish kill in the protected wetland area situated within the Manila Bay region.

“The DENR is now gathering more information on the extent and the cause of the fish kill in LPPWP,” the environment chief said.

Cimatu said the Environmental Management Bureau-National Capital Region (EMB-NCR) had already conducted tests in LPPWP for several key water quality indicators.

He said the results are being fast tracked “to enable us to determine what measures to undertake to mitigate adverse impacts over other marine life in the area.”

“We are also doing this because we want to make sure that the fish kill incident will not cause any delay to the ongoing Manila Bay rehabilitation efforts,” Cimatu added.

DENR-NCR Regional Executive Director Jacqueline Caancan said the water test results will be out “in the next few days.”

The results, she said, would complement studies being done by experts from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources of the Department of Agriculture and the city governments of Las Piñas and Paranaque.

“While agriculturists initially assessed that the state of some of the fishes indicate dynamite fishing, our parameter tests on the water quality in the area could pinpoint other factors that may have contributed to the fish kill,” Caancan said.

The DENR-EMB tested the LPPWP waters for dissolved oxygen, pH level, nitrates, phosphates, fecal coliform and cyanide. The results could show whether the fish died through toxic means, or through oxygen saturation that is determined by the level of dissolved oxygen in the water, which is essential to sustain aquatic life.

As of the morning of October 11, personnel from the DENR, the local governments of Las Piñas and Paranaque, and the so-called “bakawan warriors” assigned to LPPWP had already cleared the shore of dead fish, which was causing a heavy stench in the area.

They were able to gather more than 200 sacks and over 5,000 kilograms of different marine species, such as fish, shrimps and crabs.

“The cleanup was necessary to reduce hazards to both human and environmental health,” Caancan said. “We must remove the dead fish before the tide brings them back to the sea and further affect the water quality in the area.”

Pending the results of the water tests, Caancan advised the public against bathing in the area to avoid ingesting through the skin or by accidental swallowing of chemicals which may be present in the water.

Cyanide, one of the test parameters, could cause headache, rapid heart rate, dizziness and vomiting when ingested in small amounts. Exposure to larger amounts could result in loss of consciousness, lung injury, birth defects when exposed during pregnancy, and respiratory failure that could lead to death.

The public is also advised to heed announcements from health officials on the safety of consuming fish gathered from the fish kill.

Around noontime on October 9, residents near the LPPWP saw a portion of the waters surrounding the wetland turning “milky white” in color. Fish then gradually appeared along the shore, with some displaying an erratic “jumping” behavior.

The large fish kill appeared the next morning, with tons of various marine species crowded along a half-kilometer stretch of LPPWP’s Long Island, and about half-ton spread out over Freedom Island.

Personnel from the EMB-NCR, BFAR, Philippine National Police-Maritime Group and the Las Piñas and Paranaque agriculture and environment offices immediately conducted an on-site inspection, identifying at least 33 marine species, including tilapia, talakitok, sapsap, lapu-lapu, eel, malakapas, crabs and shrimp.

In 2013, the LPPWP, formerly known as the Las Piñas-Paranaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area, was recognized as a Wetland of International Importance by the Ramsar Convention because of the critical role it plays in the survival of various migratory bird species.

LPPWP is one of only two protected areas in the highly urbanized Metro Manila, the other being the Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife Center in Quezon City. ###