by Rex Godinez Ortega, OC and Ian S. Embradura, OPI
“Our presence here shows the importance of this project.”
These were the words of Dr. Filemon A. Uriarte, Jr., President of the National Research Council of the Philippines (NRCP), after he signed the Memorandum of Agreement with MSU-IIT for the conduct of the first of three initial projects under an historic research program on Lake Lanao.
Uriarte, along with NRCP Executive Director Carina G. Lao and the entire Governing Board of the highest research body of the Philippines, were at the Mini-Theater of MSU-IIT on August 1, 2015 for the MOA signing and for the launching of the program “Comprehensive Studies on Lake Lanao for Sustainable Development”.
“If we are going to support these projects, we might as well support them not just in token but in a very strong way,” Uriarte was quoted as saying in late June when he and the NRCP approved for funding the proposal to conduct the flagship program on the Philippines’ highest and second largest lake.
During the launching ceremonies at the Mini-Theater, the NRCP gave recognition to Dr. Franco G. Teves, MSU-IIT’s Director for Research, for conceptualizing the Lake Lanao Project.
Teves is an immediate past chair of the NRCP Mindanao Cluster, and the one who submitted the initial proposal for the project.
Speaking at the Mini-Theater, Chancellor Sukarno D. Tanggol of MSU-IIT expressed his thanks to the NRCP for trusting the Institute in leading such a significant pursuit.
Tanggol, as Chancellor, is the head of the first project under the historic program.
This first project, which will take two years to complete, is a study on the “Socio-economic and Political Dimensions of Lake Lanao”.
The project aims to emphasize on the dynamics of the activities and attitudes of upland, lowland, and lakeshore community settlers in their use of the lake as a source of water.
Tanggol described the entire program as “a landmark program for the sustainability of Lake Lanao, not only to its environs but to the whole of Mindanao.”
“Who is not a stakeholder?” Tanggol asked referring to the pervading influence of Lake Lanao not only in the two lanao provinces but in the entire island of Mindanao.
Lake Lanao lies at the core of Mindanao’s power needs, supplying 75% of the electricity through the seven Agus hydroelectric power plants that start from the mouth of the lake down to Iligan City where MSU-IIT is located.
The MOA signing and launching ceremonies was then followed by a forum that was participated in by various local government units from both Lanao provinces, acting Iligan Mayor Ruderic Marzo, non-government organizations, academic institutions, and researchers.
During the forum, Pip Naga of the Save Lake Lanao Movement (SALLAM), gave an overview of the present condition of the lake and the actions being undertaken to preserve it.
Naga also expressed his full support, in behalf of SALLAM, in the realization and actualization of the flagship research program.
The second and third projects under the program, “Comprehensive Studies on Lake Lanao for Sustainable Development,” will be conducted by aquatic biologist, Dr. Carmelita G. Hansel, and fisheries expert, Dr. Sherwin Nacua. Both are from MSU-Marawi.
Hansel’s one-year study is called, “Physical and Chemical Characterization of Lake Lanao”. It aims to provide important data in view of the current physical and chemical factors of the Lake in an effort to assess the lake’s present ecological integrity and health.
Nacua, on the other hand, will try to determine the present population status of the indigenous, endemic and introduced species in Lake Lanao in an effort to protect and conserve the lake’s threatened species.
This study by Nacua, which also has a one year term, is called, “Lake Lanao Fishery Resource Assessment: Population Survey, Reproductive and Morphometric Characterization of Endemic and Introduced Fishes of Lake Lanao and Immediate Aquatic Environs.”
Emphasizing the “comprehensiveness” of the research program, Uriarte said, “it cannot be sustainable unless we attend to the social, economic, cultural, and environmental aspects of the area.”
“When one element is absent, no matter how long we do it, there will be no improvement and it’s the same thing with sustainable development,” Uriarte explained.
After the launching and MOA signing in MSU-IIT, the members of the NRCP Governing Board visited the MSU main campus in Marawi City. They were treated to lunch hosted by the MSU Office of the President at the VIP Lounge where the guests had their first glimpse of Lake Lanao.
Later in the afternoon, Chancellor Tanggol escorted the members of the Governing Board to get an up-close view of the lake from the shore.From Lake Lanao, the group headed back to Iligan where they ended their tour with a visit to Maria Cristina Falls, which is the last stop of the Agus river before it drains to the sea.
The NRCP Governing Board had arrived in Iligan a day earlier and held its board meeting at the Cheradel Suites. This was then followed by a brief tour at Mimbalot Falls and the Iligan City Hall.
On the evening of July 31, the Institute hosted a Pagana Maranao for the members of the Governing Board to formally welcome them to MSU-IIT.