COTABATO CITY — El Niño phenomenon is taking its toll on Lake Lanao, the country’s second largest inland body of water generating majority of Mindanao’s hydroelectric requirement.
Concerned Marawi City residents on Friday complained about the current recession of the lake’s water even below the “critical” 698 meter above sea level (MASL). They said the actual level is lower than the 2016 El Niño-triggered water recession at 699 MASL. The lake’s normal water level is 701.54 MASL, official data shows.
To prove their points, assertive residents posted in the Facebook three comparative photos of the official lake water level marker installed by the National Power Corporation (NPC) near the mouth of Agus River, the lake’s lone outlet.
“We urge the NPC and other responsible agencies like DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) to look into this (record low water recession) and find remedy or alternatives,” outspoken resident Drieza Lininding said in one Facebook post.
Lininding warned fellow residents in Marawi City and Lano del Sur of severe consequences if the lake water level is unaddressed.
Lake Lanao is the country’s second largest freshwater located in Lanao del Sur spanning 354.6 square kilometers in width. Marawi City and 15 of the provinces 39 towns are located around the lake’s coasts.
The lake has five watersheds with rivers and tributaries totaling 431 km. Waters from the rivers and tributaries drain into the lake and exit through only one outlet, the Agus River that flows southwest into Iligan Bay via two channels; Maria Cristina Falls, the largest waterfall in the country and Linamon Falls.
Seven dams serving as hydroelectric plants have been installed along the Agus River, generating 727 megawatts that the NPC distributes across Mindanao.
In 2016 when the lake water lever receded close to 699.15 MASL, the NPC and the National Grid Power Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) were forced to impose three to four hours daily brownouts in Mindanao.
For decades, elected officials in Marawi City and Lanao del Sur have been complaining of being “powerless” in the preservation, protection and development of Lake Lanao, which the national government declared as watershed reserve under Proclamation No.871 on February 26, 1992.
The 1992 decree placed the management of the lake under the sole supervision and management of a national body led by the DENR. The DENR-Region 10 office has been delegated to enforce the proclamation. The DENR office in defunct Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), which covers Marawi City and Lanao Sur, exercised only “coordinative” function.
Lanao del Sur’s elected members of the House of Representatives had repeatedly filed bills creating a Lake Lanao Development Authority (LLDA) to take over the lake’s management, but all proposals were archived.
Maranao members of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), which crafted the draft bill for the creation of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, included a provision placing the lake’s management under BARMM. But Congress and Malacañang scrapped the provision. (Ali G. Macabalang)
(NOTE: Attached are combined photos taken by Marawi City residents of the official Lake Lanao official water level market last March 5 and during the 2016 dry spell)