Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje welcomed the writ of kalikasan issued by the Supreme Court, directing him and other DENR officials to refrain from issuing permits for operation of fish cages in Taal Lake.

At the same time, Paje directed DENR-Region 4A Executive Director Reynulfo Juan, who also sits as the chair of the multisectoral Protected Areas Management Board of the Taal Volcano Protected Landscape (TVPL), to convene immediately the board to review and discuss the management plan of Taal Volcano in light of the writ of kalikasan.

“We welcome the move of the Supreme Court, as this fully supports the intention of the government to improve the environmental quality of our rivers, lakes and other waterways, which the DENR has been waging all these years, particularly last year when we launched our Adopt-an-Estero program,” Paje said.

Paje clarified, however, that the DENR does not issue permits for fish cages but the concerned local government units. “The regulation and control of the fish cage industry within the Taal Volcano Protected Landscape (TVPL) is with the local government since they have jurisdiction over the aquaculture zone. The concerned mayor issues the annual permit and the license to operate fish cages within his/her political jurisdiction. In turn, he/she collects fees from the fish cage operators for their municipality,” he explained.

According to him, this practice of the LGUs assuming the mandate to issue permits has been institutionalized even prior to the creation of the PAMB, and continued to this day as the LGUs are also regular members of the PAMB.

Paje said that among the major issues that need to be looked into in light of the writ of kalikasan include the immediate dismantling of illegal fish cages and other aqua structures.

Paje also said the board will need to examine the contribution of pollutive establishments and other development activities along banks of rivers that drain into the lake. “Another that will have to be looked into by the board are the land-based activities that contribute to the pollution of the rivers surrounding the protected area, that also impact on the water quality of Taal Lake,” Paje stressed.

In a report, DENR’s Community Environment and Natural Resources Officer (CENRO) and concurrently park superintendent of TVPL Laudemir Salac said that the dismantling of illegal fish cages and other aqua structures in the protected area started way back in 2008 when the executive committee of the PAMB had authorized the Batangas provincial government to spearhead the campaign. Relative to this, Batangas Gov. Vilma Santos-Recto created the Environmental Law Enforcement Task Force for TVPL composed of representatives from local and national government agencies, including law enforcement agencies.

As of 2011, Salac reported the task force was able to dismantle a total of 6,945 illegal aqua structures, broken down as follows: 1,702 in 2008; 3,593 in 2009; 488 in 2010; and 1,162 in 2011.