Sunio: Lake Lanao: Identity vs utility


THE Lake Lanao is part of the identity of the Meranaws of Lanao del Sur, but seeing the lake up close now, it was just left as something only limited to that.

The first few drafts of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) did not include the Lake Lanao in the territories of inland waters for the new entity. This garnered rage from many Meranaws because the Lake has been part of centuries of Meranaw livelihood, culture, lore, tradition, and history.

The ancient lake is imbedded in their very name. Their tribe’s name, “Meranaw,” actually means “people of the lake,” where “ranaw” means “lake.”

From our place on top of the mountain in Mindanao State University – Marawi, the lake looks majestic. Many new comers shared that at first, they thought that it was the sea.

Many religious rituals like ablution before praying were done in the lake that is why many mosques were built near Lake Lanao. Tales from the “Darangen,” a Meranaw epic, and other folktales, lore, and myths, also mentioned the lake several times.

As a matter of fact, the lake’s water, though teeming with bacteria such as E. Coli, is still classified as a Class A water and is still drinkable.

Most of all, a large source of Mindanao’s electricity is from this body, and is thereby a competitive source of income for the island. About 727 megawatts of electricity is produced by the Agus grid and provides 60 percent of the energy in Mindanao, as well as in the national grid.

The sight of the wide, blue lake basking under the sunlight and surrounded by green mountains would make you want to dive right in to the water.

But seeing how the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (Armm) and its people “treated” Lake Lanao in the present, it may as well be concluded that the lake is better off to belong to other regions instead.

Despite declaring the Lake as a protected watershed, many houses were built in its banks, thereby polluting it.

The lake isn’t as “pretty” up close. Before the war, when we pass through the bridge near Pumping, large water lilies teem the rivers and a lot of garbage also float with it.

Many of the 18 endemic species of fish in the lake were already lost, together with other potentialities it had – and may have had.

A Meranaw political organization once clamored in 2014 for an equitable share from the revenues of the National Power Corporation and pay the Lanao del Sur LGU more than one percent for the hydro plants that operate along the Agus River.

“What is the benefit of this for the Meranaw people?” they ask.

But it was also essential to ask them back: “What persuasive means did you employ to prevent the Lake’s ruin?”

Yes, there were initiatives, but they were not enough. The homes built around the lake alone was just one proof.

They argue that Lanao del Norte is the one that mostly benefited from the hydroelectricity from the lake. However, Lanao del Sur and ARMM as a whole also did not invest enough on electricity generation.

On top of that, many local residents argue that their electricity should be ‘free’ because “the lake is ours,” as a tribe, despite the very low costs of electricity in the region already.

They intentionally did away with the fact that it costs to generate electricity from the lake. It’s not as if you can just throw your plugs to the lake to make your appliances start running.

This is just one disadvantage of identity politics. Instead of simply fighting for their rights, they will now feel “privileged” to the point of being entitled to abuse it.

This is also the same for the many clamors I see on the internet for the inclusion of Lake Lanao in the Bangsamoro Organic Law.

Some simply argue that they should retain the lake and cried “identity” and “history,” but what did you actually do to protect the lake and for it to realize its full potential?



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