February 14, 2013
By Pia-Louise Valencia, with notes from Dr. Nathaniel Libatique and Mr. Chrisandro Favila
SkyEye photos courtesy of Matthew Cua, AIC picture from Mr. Chrisandro Favila

In San Pablo Laguna, a picturesque view of a serene lake surrounded by lush greenery awaits. This is Lake Palakpakin, part of the famous 7 Lakes of San Pablo. It is home to several communities, a greater part of which relies on the lake’s resources for their livelihood.
It is in this fishing village that Ateneo de Manila has been sending its students for their immersion and formation programs.  Several long-standing associations like this have fostered close ties between Ateneo and the locals of Lake Palakpakin.  Jesuit presence in the area, in fact, goes further back, tracing its roots to the old Ateneo de San Pablo in the main town.  In addition, the lake has long been a prime research location for Ateneo’s Environmental Science (ES) department, led by its 1st Chair Dr. Toby Dayrit. The ES department has been doing research on the lake for more than 10 years now, collecting soil and water samples for data analysis.
Ateneo’s Office for Social Concern and Involvement has also been constantly attuned to the socio-economic concerns of the lake community and is involved in causes to improve the conditions of the communities in the area. Among the problems that had been identified by the locals was the seasonal occurrence of fishkills in the lakes that hosted fishpens.  One of the key things that needed to be done, was to monitor water quality in realtime to anticipate the potential onset of such an event.
Accordingly, in 2008, Lake Palakpakin became a pilot site for the deployment of a wireless sensing network that would accomplish such a task. Funded by a program from the Asia Pacific Telecommunity, Ateneo partnered with researchers from the Telecommunications Office (TELOF, now the ICT Office – DOST), NTT of Japan, the National Agricultural Research Office of Japan, Thailand’s NECTEC and Kasetsaart University.  Also involved in the project were the local government of San Pablo (the office of the mayor and several barangays around the Palakpakin lake shore), as well as FARMC, the lead organization tasked to manage the commonly held lake resource.
 ICTO-DOST, through Engr. Clodualdo Rodil, led the civil works installation for the sensor network, while the international partners contributed their telemetry and sensor technologies to the mix of capabilities. Ateneo’s team coordinated the effort including the integration of the information system in an end-to-end network from the lake to the Ateneo campus servers.  Ateneo also spearheaded the research and development of innovative new aquaculture-centered technologies, such as floating servers, underwater imaging, aerators, and smartphone based data gathering.
The team deployed fixed location sensors using technologies from their Japanese and Thailand partners.  Moreover, the Ateneo Innovation Center (AIC), through the leadership of Prof. Greg Tangonan, infused  the Filipino’s own brand of technology, creating wirelessly remote-controlled “balsas” (bamboo rafts) enabling the once static sensors to float around the lake.  This helped the sensors provide readings from different areas, generating more substantial data. They also connected solar panels and batteries for energy storage to power the sensors.
The sensors deployed can measure critical water quality parameters such as Ph level/acidity, water temperature, and dissolved oxygen levels.  The data is forwarded to the wi-fi station set-up at the riverbank.  In addition, underwater cameras were also installed with the floating sensors.  Fishermen find these cameras very useful as it not only provides them with images of the lakes clarity but also lets them see if their nets properly contain their catch.
Apart from these, aerial images of the lake are also taken from time to time using UAV-borne imaging platforms, a contribution from an AIC tech spin-off Skyeye Inc. On site camera images and water quality data are all delivered to Ateneo servers for real-time for processing, visualization and analysis by domain experts. Fishpens can be inventoried from the air, abandoned sites overgrown with water hyacinths can be identified, and new unregistered sites can now be monitored.

AIC researchers led by Mr. Paul Cabacungan (rightmost) and Matthew Cua (not in photo). Beside him is Mr. Fernando Espallardo (“Mang Pando”) of FARM-C.
The Lake Palakpakin community is also involved in data gathering. Currently, Mr. Fernando Espallardo, more fondly known as Mang Pando, is helping the AIC team develop an initial field test of a data gathering protocol where a local user may take pictures of the lake using android phones. The system, when fully implemented, will regularly send these pictures and pertinent data to a central server in the Ateneo campus, centering on events such as fishkills, or more routine tasks such as feeding and harvesting. Information on the frequency and intensity of these events are needed for applications such as the forecast of an impending fishkill – triggering decisions such as a preventive harvest or some letup in excessive feeding.  Along with other data such as aerial images, these measurements can provide the community with the capability for efficient management to ensure the long term viability of the shared water resource.
Ateneo’s and the ICT Office’s (DOST) involvement in the area, although substantial, is only in support of the role of the Seven Lakes locals themselves.  The importance of community involvement in lake management cannot be overemphasized.   In recent discussions, long term strategies for other economic activities are being envisioned, including eco-tourism such as adventure trails and sport fishing, as well as scaled up fish feed production. 
There are several other programs currently being considered for the benefit of Lake Palakpakin.  Among them is a study on a particular mix of fishfeed using dried left-overs from the public market. It is cheaper and so far has generated favorable results based on the data they have recorded. 
Several  fishpens in the lake were also set-up for deployment of new aerator designs. Submersible pumps were installed, connected to pipes that sprinkle water back to the lake. This simple “shower” agitates the lake and mixes much needed oxygen in the water. This and other aerator designs are now being investigated by an AIC team led by Dr. Nathaniel Libatique and Prof. Greg Tangonan. Since then, there was only one reported incident of fishkill that recorded a mass of 400 fishes.  However, this did not occur in the aerated fishpens but rather in an area that was not controlled.

Once the pilot deployment is optimized, the team plans to share the reference designs for lake communities around the Philippines, developing a new and useful  “usage standard” for aquaculture in a multiple shared environment - standards that go beyond mere technical specifications for wireless telemetry and information systems software but that actually address real-world application domains.
In the meantime, the local community of Lake Palakpakin continue to benefit from this pilot project. Lake Palakpakin being the natural choice as the pilot site for the work that the Ateneo team envisioned is perhaps one of the most apt way of giving back to the community who has long fostered its students, keeping abreast to Ateneo’s call to defeat poverty by engaging the nation.