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DENR probes deeper into fish kill, shellfish mortality in Manila Bay, Parañaque, Las Piñas

(Photo from CNN Philippines)

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is conducting a thorough investigation into the massive fish kill in Manila Bay in Las Piñas and Parañaque Cities, and shellfish mortality affecting mussel farms in Bacoor City and Sangley Point, Cavite.

The twin incidents triggered speculations that the water quality in the affected area has worsened, contrary to earlier claims by concerned government agencies heralding the “positive impact” of an ongoing effort to rehabilitate Manila Bay.

The Department of Agriculture (DA), following the reported incident of fish kill, has deployed its Fishery Law Enforcement-Quick Response Team (FLE-QRT) in the affected areas on October 10, and reported that that the fish kill has resulted in the loss of an estimated volume of 1 to 2 tons of fish composed mainly of bagaong, bakule, sapsap, tilapia, bakoko, siliw, manabon and barakuda.

The DA’s Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (DA-BFAR) further said in a report dated October 11, 2019, that the water quality test conducted in three sampling areas by BFAR’s National Fisheries Laboratory Division (NFLD) and BFAR 4A showed poor levels of dissolved oxygen, and higher levels of ammonia and phosphates than the standard level.

On the reported shellfish mortality in Bacoor and Sangley Point in Cavite, the DA-BFAR dispatched another team from its Fisheries Protection and Law Enforcement Group (FPLEG), together with the BFAR  BFAR-NFLD and technical personnel from BFAR 4A, who found out that the level of salinity in the areas, which ranged from 19 ppt to 25 ppt, is lower than the required level for shellfish survival which is 27 ppt to 35 ppt.

Also, laboratory test results showed that dissolved oxygen levels in the sampling areas are low.

High concentrations of ammonia and phosphates were, likewise, detected. These chemicals, at high levels, may have detrimental effects to fish and other marine life, result showed.

DENR Undersecretary for Solid Waste Management and Local Government Units (LGUs) Concern Benny D. Antiporda, sought for comment, meanwhile, dismissed claims that the water quality in Manila Bay, particularly in Las Piñas and Parañaque, as well as in Bacoor, Cavite, have worsened amid the ongoing effort to rehabilitate Manila Bay.

“Right now, we are still looking into the incident.  As a matter of fact, I am waiting for reports from our field offices,” Antiporda, the spokesman of Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu told the BusinessMirror.

Antiporda also said the fish kill which was observed near the Las Piñas-Parañaque Wetland Park (LPPWP), formerly known as Las Piñas-Parañaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area (LPPCHEA), is not that “massive.”

The DENR on Monday issued a statement assuring the public that appropriate measures will be undertaken to make sure the recent fish kill in Las Piñas and Parañaque will not affect the ongoing rehabilitation efforts in Manila Bay.

The DENR was tasked by President Duterte to lead the Manila Bay Task Force tasked primarily to rehabilitate Manila Bay.

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

The Environmental Management Bureau-National Capital Region (EMB-NCR) had already conducted tests in LPPWP for several key water quality indicators, the result of which will enable the DENR to determine what measures are needed to mitigate adverse impacts on 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 BFAR of the Department of Agriculture, and the city governments of Las Piñas and Parañaque.

“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, Caancan said.

Personnel from the DENR, the local governments of Las Piñas and Parañaque, 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 ingestion through the skin or by accidental swallowing of chemicals, which may be present in the water.

Cyanide, one of the test parameters could cause headaches, 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.

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