By Ali G. Macabalang
COTABATO CITY – The interim government of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) through some members of its Parliament has launched a series of clean-up drives on Lake Lanao in what organizers deemed as a prelude to a legislative measure seeking create a Ranaw Development Authority (RDA).
The maiden episode of the drive was kicked off on July 13 along the shore of Marantao, one of Lanao del Sur towns surrounding Ranaw (a Maranaw term for the lake), which is the country’s second largest freshwater body and globally recognized as among the list of UNESCO World Heritage.
Some 300 volunteers from various government agencies and civic groups joined the kick-off drive hosted proudly by Marantao Mayor Akhira Alonto, according to a social media post by the office of Bangasamoro Transition Authority or BTA Parliament Member Maisara Dandamun-Latiph.
Related photos posted about the clean-up drive’s opening salvo showed some volunteers loading onto dump trucks tons of waste and garbage materials plucked out of Marantao lakeshores.
“(The campaign segment in) Marantao is first in our series of Lake Shore Clean Up Drive. There will be succeeding activities in different municipalities,” MP Latiph said in a chat with the Philippine Muslim Today news.
The maiden segment was carried aout by volunteers from civilian, police and military entities, including youth groups, the Marantao LGU, MENRE-Lanao Sur, the National Power Corporation, Hijab for A Cause, Adopt a Month Program, Jamiyyatul Waqf Al-Islamie, Lake Lanao College Incorporated, UMMA1LOVE, Jamiatu Muslim Mindanao, Ugop Ko Masa Organization, Meranao Focus, Stalwarts Organization, and the Philippine Muslim Student Association.
Volunteers also included those from the Moriatao o Ranaw, Alshabaab Alhaalimun, Antap Organization, Butig Youth Movement for Peace, BPRIMO’s led by Municipal Director Olambae Saripada, Bureau of Fire Prevention interns, the social work office of, and media entities pushing for “Siyap Ko Ranaw” (Concern for Lake) campaign, Latiph said.
Lake Lanao (Ranao or Ranaw) has a total surface area of 340 square kilometers (130 square miles) with a maximum depth of 22 meter (400 feet) and a mean depth of 60.3 meters. It is one of the 15 ancient lakes across the world, and scholars have reportedly succeeded in pushing for its inclusion in the UNESCO World Heritage List in recent years, it was learned.
Marawi City and 12 of the 39 towns in Lanao del Sur surround the lake, which is fed by four rivers. For ages, Ranaw has been associated with the cultural identity of Maranaos, their aqua-agricultural economies, transport and religious requirements.
BTA Parliament Speaker Pangalian Balindong once said he, in his 12-year stints in Congress, had repeatedly filed a bill creating a Lake Lanao Development Authority patterned to the Laguna Lake Development Authority, but his bids proved in vain.
Lawmakers from other regions as well as national authorities and oligarchs engaged in the lucrative energy industry have reportedly been opposed to placing the lake’s management and control by local government units. Reason: The Ranaw’s only outlet – Agus River – has been installed with hydropower dams producing at least 70% of electricity in Mindanao and nearby areas.
MP Latiph has filed in 2019 at the BARMM Parliament BTA Bill 32 seeking to create the Ranao Development Authority. The BARMM legislative-executive coordinating body included this month the bill as one of the 10-priority agenda of the autonomous government for 2021.
“Lake Lanao cannot be denied that it is part of history and has a special place in the hearts of every Meranaw or the Bangsamoro as a whole. Most, if not all, of the people living near the lake drink and take a bath from it which became one of the issues and problems encountered – health problems to be specific,” Latiph said in a latest post.
Health problems like diarrhea and skin disease (are) being reported in one of the municipalities in Lanao del Sur,” she said.
“Wag po nating hayaan ang patuloy at unti-unting pagkamatay ng Ranao. Habang-buhay naming isasapuso bilang mga Maranao ang inyong pag-pasa ng panukalang batas at hindi po naming ito makakalimutan ang inyong handog sa susunod na henerasyon,” she added.
In 1965, Lake Lanao was renamed by Republic Act No. 4260 to Lake Sultan Alonto then repealed by Republic Act No. 6434 in 1972, according to Wikipedia.
It was proclaimed as a watershed reservation in 1992 by President Cory Aquino through Presidential Proclamation 971 to ensure protection of forest cover and water yield for hydropower, irrigation and domestic use.
Section 22 of Article XIII of R.A. 11054 or Bangsamoro Organic Law excludes Ranaw among the inland waters in the autonomous region that are under control and supervision of the BARMM government. Meranao people demand the inclusion of this lake into the BOL, but failed because of its being a source of major hydroelectricity in Mindanao.
Peace panelists representing the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in past negotiations with the government had argued for the BARMM government’s supervision control of Ranaw. But an exchange of inter-panel compromises led to placing the lake on a co-management stature by the regional and national government.
In her privilege speech for her bill, co-authored by 47 other parliament members, MP Latiph said the RDA should be created first before a bill now revived in the 18th Congress for a Lake Lanao regulating body gets passed.
She said it would be difficult for the BARMM government to bargain anew for substantial supervision over Ranaw if the national legislation shall have preceded the regional counterpart. (AGM)