Friday, June 13, 2014

DENR orders closure of Albay town’s decades-old dump

DARAGA, Albay, June 12 (PNA) -– The regional office for Bicol of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has ordered the closure of a vast open field that the local government here has been using as solid waste dump since several decades ago.

The order was issued and carried out over the week by the DENR’s Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) based in Legazpi City in line with the provisions of Republic Act (RA) 9003, otherwise known as the Philippine Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000.

EMB Regional Director Roberto Sheen on Thursday said the continuous use of the facility as an open dump for ecological solid waste constitutes violations of the same Act following the lapse of the June 2009 set for compliance by local government units (LGUs).

The same law, he explained, provides the legal framework for the country’s systematic, comprehensive and ecological solid waste management program that ensures protection of public health and the environment.

The dump located along the national highway in Barangay Peñafrancia here already poses severe threats to the environment and public health, Sheen said.

RA 9003, he explained, mandates solid waste management as a primary responsibility of LGUs and local officials should ensure the proper segregation, collection, transport, storage, treatment and disposal of solid waste through best practices in ecological waste management, excluding incineration.

Section 48 of the Act specifically listed as prohibited acts the improper disposal of garbage, open burning of solid waste, non-segregation of waste, squatting on open dumps and landfills and dumping or burying of garbage in flood-prone areas, among others.

Sheen said he recently issued the closure order even as he provided a time allowance for the local government here to be able to establish a sanitary landfill for its ecological waste.

Henry Jacob, the LGU's head of its Solid Waste Management Office, said the municipal government “is still looking for a place for the new facility somewhere in villages not so close to the town proper.”

Besides, Jacob said, the LGU under Mayor Gerry Jaucian is still in a dilemma as to where to get the fund for it. Its neighboring Legazpi City, however, is lucky to be able to secure some four years ago a P100-million grant from the Agencia Espanola De Cooperacion Para El Desarullo for the construction of its modern sanitary landfill that the city government is now effectively using in the implementation of its Ecological Solid Waste Management program, Jacob said.

Anyway, according to Sheen, the LGU here is still allowed to use the dump while the process of establishing a new allowable facility is being undertaken.

However, the EMB regional chief said, the local government must prohibit the open burning of the garbage dumped in the area, evict the squatters composed of several families of scavengers that have occupied some parts of it and prevent the entry of stray animals.

The dump, located in an about two-hectare site, has been there since time immemorial so that travelers regularly coming in or going out from and to Sorsogon areas or as far as the Visayas and Mindanao regions through the Maharlika Highway have been accustomed to covering their noses and mouths when passing by to fend off the foul smell emanating from it. (PNA) LAP/FGS/DOC/CBD/UTB