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Photographer's Note

As with most photographs taken through aircraft windows, the technical quality of this shot is not great, but I am posting it in the TE spirit of learning about the world through photography.

This is Laguna de Bay – the second largest inland lake in south-east Asia – which is located just to the south of Manila. It is nearly 1,000 sq kms in size, but is quite shallow (average depth is only two metres). This is the view that passengers sitting in row A will see as they fly into Manila if they are approaching the main runway from the north-east. Many people mistakenly think this is Manila Bay, but you will only see that if approaching from the other direction. The river in the bottom left of the frame leads into the Pasig River which eventually drains into Manila Bay.

You don’t see much written about Laguna de Bay in tourist guidebooks – from the air it doesn’t look like much is going on other than fish farming – so I did an Internet search for more information on Laguna de Bay.

I was shocked by what I found. There are hundreds of documents on the Internet about Laguna de Bay’s pollution problems – apparently tonnes of industrial, agricultural and human waste are discharged into Laguna de Bay every day – but what shocked me was that there doesn’t seem to be anything happening to stop the pollution or clean it up, as you would expect in most countries.

In fact, quite the opposite is happening. The local authorities apparently have a ‘user pays’ scheme for polluters (they call it an ‘Environmental User Fee System’ which was introduced in 1996 to “internalise the cost of environmental degradation”). Under this system, companies discharging waste products into the lake obtain an annual discharge permit and then pay a fee (which didn’t seem large to me) which varies depending on whether the discharge contains heavy metals or not (heavy metal discharges are those defined as containing metallic chemical elements that have a relatively high density and are toxic or poisonous at low concentrations e.g. mercury, lead, arsenic, cadmium, etc).

Surprisingly Laguna de Bay still supports quite a big fishing industry. The website worldlakes.org tells us what fish are produced in this entry:

“Native fish species include Manila catfish, freshwater eel, goby, Indonesian bard, common carp, Thai catfish and gowary” But then also notes: “Declining fish productivity, diminishing phytoplankton community composition, and high heavy metal levels in lake biota are all evidence of significant pollution and significant stressors on Laguna de Bay's aquatic life”.

The website also talks about “sewage flows freely through surface waters”.

So my Philippines travel tip for the day would be: next time you are in a fish restaurant in Manila – avoid the local catfish, eel, goby, bard, carp and gowary. It’s the one time that fish might not be good for your health.

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Additional Photos by David Astley (banyanman) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1237 W: 108 N: 2568] (7789)
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