Saturday, February 20, 2016

6 Albay towns, 1 city face charges for improper waste disposal -- EMB

LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 19 (PNA) -- The National Solid Waste Commission (NSWC) has warned six towns and a city in Albay that it will file environmental charges against them with the Office of the Ombudsman for their failure to strictly comply with proper waste disposal program under Republic Act 9003 or the Ecological Solid Management Act (ESMA) of 2000, a top official of Department of Environment and Natural Resources' Environment Management Bureau (DENR-EMB) in Bicol said Friday.

Roberto Sheen, EMB regional director, identified these local government units (LGUs) facing environmental charges with the Ombudsman as the towns of Daraga, Camalig, Guinobatan, Polangui and Tiwi and Tabaco City.

The six Albay towns were among the 50 towns and cities across the country that belong to the first batch of LGUs that have been assessed and validated by the NSWC to be non-compliant to the ESMA of 2000 despite repeated warnings, Sheen said.

In an interview, the EMB official said the commission's assessment indicated that, except for Legazpi City, almost all the 113 towns and cities in Bicol failed to comply with the parameters laid down by the law on waste disposal.

“Regrettably, the six LGUs in Albay were included in the first batch to be advised to comply with the law or face administrative and criminal charges as consequence,” Sheen said.

He, however, cited a commission guidelines saying that these affected LGUs will be given six months upon receipt of the advice to make the necessary compliance based on the parameters set by the waste disposal law.

The warning should serve as a wake-up call for them to heed the commission’s demands, he said.

The commission's assessment found out that the five towns and Tabaco City have violated the law on solid waste management using open dump in their waste disposal and despite the warnings, they have failed to close these open garbage dump sites as required by law.

Only the Legazpi City government operates a solid waste disposal landfill in the entire Bicol Region, Sheen said.

Households in these towns and cities do not practice the waste segregation process where biogradable, non-biogradable and residual waste materials are properly segregated and are brought to collection and segregation centers in villages, town and city.

It was also observed that the towns of Daraga, Camalig and Tiwi have no Material Recovery Facilities (MRF).

The commission's assessment found out that while all six LGUs submitted their respective 10-year Solid Waste Plans, the plans were not implemented.

As for the safe closure and rehabilitation plan only five have submitted.

Sheen is hopeful that the six Albay LGUs would be able to comply with the commission's demands for reasons that the town of Polangui is the hometown of Albay Gov. Joey Salceda, Guinobatan is the place of Environment Secretary Ramon Paje and Tiwi is the hometown of his wife.

As this developed, Salceda said in a text message, “We have put earnest effort over the years to hold the hand of our LGUs in complying with RA 9003.”

“In fact, the provincial environment natural resources governance office was created to mobilize other functional units of the provincial government to support our environment compliance,” he said.

In defending the affected LGUs, Salceda said the question of funding is to be addressed as these LGUs feel the urgency of their strategies not just to comply with the letter but also to comply with the spirit of the law.

Cherilie Mella Sampal, Polangui town mayor, said in a separate interview, that she was surprised as she only learned about the complaint through media reports, saying “so far we have not yet received the complaint-advice from the EMB.”

Sampal said the LGU has already submitted to the EMB its 10-year solid waste plan and has been working out since 2011 to purchase a lot for the proposed sanitary landfill.

The plan includes a common or clustered sanitary landfill.

Asked on how the complaint process flows, Sheen said that after exhausting all the given parameters and the LGU still fails to comply, the NSWC will conduct an assessment and advise the LGU to comply with the deficiency.

The LGU will be given six months to comply and in case they fail, the commission will submit the recommendation to the Ombudsman where the latter will file criminal and administrative cases against the mayor, the environment and natural resources officer and the LGU council members. (PNA) LAP/FGS/MSA/CBD/EDS