THE Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) started Thursday the dismantling of illegal structures in Laguna de Bay.

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

The team includes representatives from the DENR's National Anti-Environmental Crime Task Force (NAECTF), Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA), National Bureau of Investigation-Environmental Crime Division (NBI-EnCD), the Philippine Army (PA) and the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG).

"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 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.

Environment Secretary Gina Lopez plans to convert the Laguna Lake into an 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. (SDR/SunStar Philippines)