The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) on Thursday began a massive operation to clear the Laguna de Bay of illegal structures, barely two weeks after the agency issued a final notice to operators of fish pens and cages within the lake to conduct self-demolition.

The DENR's National Anti-Environmental Crime Task Force (NAECTF), together with the Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA), National Bureau of Investigation-Environmental Crime Division (NBI-EnCD), the Philippine Army and the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) conducted the dismantling operation.

In its first salvo, the demolition team was able to tear down two huge fish pens occupying around 100 hectares in Binangonan, Rizal.

"The DENR-NAECTF will see to it that Laguna Lake is cleared of fish pens before President Rodrigo Duterte delivers his second State of the Nation Address (SONA) in July," DENR Undersecretary and NAECTF head Art Valdez said.

The dismantling operation is in line with President Duterte's directive in his first SONA to dismantle big fish pens and cages in Laguna Lake to allow small fishermen to gain access to traditional fishing grounds.

LLDA General Manager Joey Medina said his office is set to clear 2,000 hectares of fish pens by June this year.

Valdez, lawyer Cesar Eric Nuqui of the NBI Environmental Crime Division (NBI-EnCD) and PCG Chief Commodore Joel Garcia were joined by some 150 coast guard personnel, 14 NBI agents, 5 PA contingents and PNP officers at Talim Island detachment, for the operation.

The PCG also deployed 15 aluminum speedboats, three rubber boats, and two skipper vessels.

DENR Secretary Gina Lopez plans to convert the Laguna Lake into a vibrant eco-tourism area and bring it back to its old glory.

The lake is among the 29 priority areas included in the DENR’s Sustainable Integrated Area Development, an area development approach that aims to provide alternative sources of livelihood that promote the protection of the environment and the sustainable development of natural resources. ###