The government agency implementing the “beach nourishment” project in Manila Bay has denied that the large number of dead fish floating on Baseco’s seawall was caused by dolomite dumping.
Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Undersecretary Benny Antiporda told reporters in a briefing yesterday that it was “erroneous” to blame the crushed industrial rocks for the fish kill because it was five kilometers away from the dumping site. He said dead fish would have floated in other parts of the bay if this was the case.
Antiporda said the DENR is investigating other possible causes such as the drop in dissolved oxygen level and the presence of cyanide in the waters due to illegal fishing.
“In the same season as last year, Oct. 10, there was also fish kill in that area…[where the] water salinity of 6 milligrams/liter of dissolved oxygen fell to 0.2 which is what caused the fish kill. At the same time, we are studying whether there is cyanide in the water…we are not discounting that someone sabotaged it. There’s a possibility that illegal fishing might have occurred in the area,” Antiporda said.
Initial reports from water samples collected by the Bureau of Fisheries revealed that dissolved oxygen in the Baseco area was at 0.11 mg/L, down from the “acceptable level” of 5 mg/L. The Bureau identified various dead fish species which include biya (“goby”), kanduli (“catfish”), asohos (“silver banded whiting”), and tilapia.
Baseco residents have called on the government to investigate what they believed was an unusually large amount of fish kill that floated in their area, expressing fears that it may be linked to the crushed dolomite dumped on Manila Bay that was washed by winds and heavy rains to their shores.
The seaside village composed of 22,000 families has depended on fishing to get by more so after the lockdowns caused many to lose their jobs. Residents said some of the fish kill were either cooked or sold at the markets. Princess Esponilla, media officer of people’s group Urban Poor Associates meanwhile told Coconuts Manila that some dead fish remain in the waters this morning, and Baseco residents who complained of the reeking “foul odor” want it removed.
Despite being criticized by lawmakers and environmental groups for the “complete absurdity” of its multi-million-peso beach facelift project, the DENR vowed to finish filling 500 meters of the shoreline with dolomite as part of its efforts to rehabilitate Manila Bay.
Editor’s Note: This article was updated to include comments from Urban Poor Associates.
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