No threat was found after the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA) inspected 15 bunkhouses occupied by workers of big fishpen operators in Laguna de Bay last Friday.

The inspection was conducted in response to reports that armed guards manning the bunkhouses were scaring off small fishermen going near large fishpens set to be dismantled on Feb. 14.

Assisted by operatives from the Maritime Command of the Philippine National Police and the Philippine Coast Guard, the DENR and the LLDA sealed off "Sector A" area of Laguna Lake and inspected the bunkhouses there for suspected firearms.

But DENR Undersecretary and Anti-Environmental Crime Task Force (NAECTF) head Art Valdez said no firearms were discovered during the inspection on the 15 bunkhouses within the fishpens covering a total of 520 hectares.

"No threat was found following the operation," said Valdez, who led the inspection along with LLDA General Manager Jaime Medina.

Valdez said the purpose of the latest DENR-LLDA operation was to ensure an "unhampered conduct of dismantling" of all big fish pens and cages within the Laguna Lake, which started on Jan. 26.

"This sends a strong signal on the government's determination to see an empowered citizenry reclaiming Laguna Lake, free of intimidation or fear of reprisal," Valdez said.

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

Valdez said they plan to finish the clearing operation by the middle of the year, in time for the President's second SONA in July.

"With members of civil society groups taking part in the demolition, the Feb. 14 operation may well be a first in the Laguna Lake's journey. But the distmantling operation is just one leg of a long journey toward the lake’s revival," Valdez said, noting that thousands of houses and factories have been dumping their industrial and chemical wastes into the lake for so many years.

"The dumping should also stop, and we need the help of various stakeholders in the lake area to make this happen,” he added. ###