In this article, I examine the shifting political ecologies of governance of Laguna Lake, Philippines, in the context of historical and contemporary populist political rhetoric. Rodrigo Duterte, who was elected president in 2016 through a platform of change, brought national attention again to the lake by promising to give it back to the people marginalized by decades-long elite capture. This populist rhetoric is the latest in attempts to manage an urban resource frontier with conflicting demands and uses. By narrating a history of governance of Laguna Lake, I trace parallels between current and past strategies of addressing resource conflicts: from Ferdinand Marcos’s authoritarian rule in the 1970s and 1980s and the pluralist modes that followed to Duterte’s law-and-order vision of development. By comparing the populist narratives of Marcos and Duterte, I demonstrate that populist rhetoric in authoritarian forms entails the contradictory processes of politicization of the problem and depoliticization of solutions. Authoritarian populist narratives transform the framing of environmental problems through antagonistic politics even as solutions are constrained within existing depoliticized technologies of government that limit the spaces of contestations. Key Words: authoritarian, Duterte, Laguna Lake, Marcos, populism.