The Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA), an agency under the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, is backing an unsolicited proposal from a private consortium to rehabilitate and develop Laguna de Bay.

LLDA General Manager Jaime “Joey” Medina disclosed that the agency’s Board of Directors has endorsed the proposed P609-billion Laguna Lake Development and Rehabilitation Project, “after months of review and evaluation.”

The endorsement comes in the aftermath of successive strong tropical cyclones, the latest of which is Typhoon Ulysses that triggered massive flooding in Metro Manila, Rizal province and other areas.

“This is a welcome opportunity as this will truly aid in addressing the Laguna Lake’s continual problems in siltation, industrial pollution, sedimentation, and lakeshore flooding,” Medina said.

Medina said the project proponent has been issued “original proponent status” or OPS and the project is now under review by the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA), through its Public-Private Partnership Center.

Medina said the LLDA endorsement will be eventually evaluated by NEDA’s Investment Coordination Committee to determine the reasonable rate of return and other parameters for negotiation.

He said the NEDA Board will ultimately approve or deny the proposal.

Medina said the consortium, after being granted the OPS, now has the authority to match better offers submitted by other rivals when a Swiss challenge is undertaken for the project.

The rehabilitation project, which will be undertaken in a span of 5 to 10 years, includes the dredging of approximately 800 million cubic meter of silt and mud.

It also involves assistance to affected fisherfolk and other stakeholders, as well as silt transfer and development of pre-identified catchment area to be done in phases while the dredging process progresses.

The said project also includes soil treatment, ground improvement and development, the construction of a water treatment facility and the introduction of a soil improvement technology called the High Vacuum Densification Method (HVDM).

The unsolicited proposal will be under the Build-Own-Operate (BOO) scheme, which means that the proponent will finance, construct, operate, maintain and own facility and can collect fees and charges to recover their investment.

The government, on the other hand, will provide the authorization and assistance in securing the BOO contract and has the option to buy the output or service provided by the operator.

The consortium is led by Taguig Lake City Development Corporation (TLCDC), with two big foreign companies as partners that have the experience, expertise and track record in undertaking such project.

In a related development, sometime December 2019, the LLDA sent a briefer thru a Memorandum to the Office of the President regarding: (1) the urgent need to rehabilitate the waters of Laguna Lake in order to sustain and enhance aquatic life therein; (2) the critical need to increase and improve the holding capacity and water quality of the Laguna Lake in order to viably and effectively access the lake as a domestic water source, and (3) the real potential of Laguna Lake and its outlying areas to significantly enhance water quality and boost socio-economic growth in the region and in the country.

The Memorandum also stated the request of LLDA to seek President Rodrigo Roa Duterte's favorable endorsement and approval of the Project and its Project objectives for purposes of urgent and speedy implementation.

The Laguna de Bay is the largest lake in the Philippines, with around 100 rivers and streams draining into it, making it prone to flooding. The Napindan Channel, through the Pasig River, drains the lake waters to Manila Bay.

During the onslaught of Typhoon Ulysses, the Laguna Lake overflowed causing severe flooding and affecting thousands of residents in several municipalities and cities in Laguna, such as Famy, Sta Cruz, Calamba, and San Pedro.

Due to strong winds and currents, fish pens in Laguna de Bay were wiped out and unleashed some 2.2 million kilograms of bangus or milkfish estimated to cost P115 million in losses to fish operators of Laguna during Typhoon Rolly. ###