Australian Embassy
The Philippines

MR1210-Australia moves to preserve Rinconada Lakes System

Donates Php17.2 million for the preservation of Bicol’s vital water resource system  

Ambassador Tony Hely (centre) leads the Memorandum
of Subsidiary Agreement signing of the Rinconada Lakes
System project at the Australian Embassy. Joining him
are (seated, L-R) PCAMRD Executive Director Dr Rafael
Guerrero III and BFAR Assistant Director Gil Adora.
Also present were (L-R) Ms Cecilia Honrado, ACIAR
(Philippines) Manager, Mr Romulo Pol and Ms Prescila
Regaspi of BFAR and ACIAR Assistant Manager
Ms Reyna Reyes

Seeking to provide profitable and sustainable growth for Filipinos, the Australian Government has approved a Php17.2 million (A$484,240) project between the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources of the Department of Agriculture and the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries (Australia). The three year project will work on a strategic framework for the effective management of the Rinconada Lakes system in the Bicol region.

The Memorandum of Subsidiary Arrangement (MSA), signed by Australian Ambassador Tony Hely, Dr Rafael Guerrero III, Executive Director of Philippine Council for Aquatic and Marine Research and Development (PCAMRD), and Mr Gil Adora, Assistant Director of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), seeks to preserve the region’s vital water resource system.

“Our overall objective is to improve the management of the Rinconada Lakes through increased understanding of the ecosystem, strengthened stakeholder consultation, capacity building and adaptive management trials to deliver sustainable fishery resources,” Ambassador Hely said.

The Rinconada Lakes system, which includes Lake Buhi, Bato and Baao-Bula, is one of the primary sources of livelihood in the Bicol region. Situated at the southernmost tip of the Luzon land mass, the region is composed of six provinces: Albay, Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Catanduanes, Masbate and Sorsogon.

Overfishing of wild fish stocks and the increase in caged based fish farming over the years, however, have caused serious habitat deterioration leading to a significant decline is fisheries production, fish kills and massive colonisation of water hyacinth in the lakes.

A recent World Bank economic study of the Bicol River basin ranked the province of Camarines Sur and Albay as second in terms of poverty incidence in the Philippines, citing the high incidences of poverty in the communities living around the lakes of the Rinconada System.

Funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) and managed by the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries, the project is designed to improve the management of the lakes by providing a framework for locally enacted management actions for better aquaculture practices. The project will also investigate the feasibility of composting water hyacinth using successful technologies from Australia as models to generate small economic return, through sales of the compost to local agricultural farmers.

“With the help of the stakeholders, this project should return fishery production to previous levels and the management actions will help ensure sustainability and improved amenity for the marginal fishers, fish farmers and the community within 5 to 10 years,” Ambassador Hely said.

The Rinconada Lakes system project is among the endeavours supported by the Australian Government aimed at reducing poverty and promoting sustainable development in the country.

Another project recently launched was the Laguna de Bay project which will undertake steps to preserve the country’s largest and most important freshwater resource. This ACIAR-funded project aims to reduce the pollution load from agricultural activities in the Pagsanjan-Lumban sub watershed by developing appropriate management strategies with the involvement of natural resource management and agricultural agencies.