By Jose Santino S. Bunachita, Michelle Joy L. Padayhag, Nestle L. Semilla |September 01,2016 - 10:58 PM
After the Cebu City government reopened the Inayawan dumpsite last June scavengers are now back  to earn a livelihood. But while scavengers are earning again from the mountains of garbage, Cebu businessmen report losses amounting to 60-70 percent as the stench from the landfill is driving customers away from their establishments.  (CDN FILE PHOTO)

After the Cebu City government reopened the Inayawan dumpsite last June scavengers are now back to earn a livelihood. But while scavengers are earning again from the mountains of garbage, Cebu businessmen report losses amounting to 60-70 percent as the stench from the landfill is driving customers away from their establishments. (CDN FILE PHOTO)

The repulsive odor, emanating from Cebu City’s reopened landfill, that wafts through restaurants, commercial establishments and residential buildings along the South Road Properties (SRP) has not just affected residents and businesses in the area but students in nearby schools as well.

In places surrounding the 15-hectare sanitary landfill in Barangay Inayawan Cebu City, the abnormal stench has become the “new normal” and there appears to be no clear solution in sight as officials continue to bicker over whether or not the landfill’s operations should continue.

Yesterday, Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña remained steadfast on his decision to keep the dump site open while the city’s environment committee chairman Councilor Joel Garganera was bent on moving for its closure.

The City Hall deadlock has prompted the Cebu business sector to seek the help of Presidential Assistant for Visayas Michael Dino who now intends to raise the matter before the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

“Ni-reklamo na (they already complained) because their sales went down from 60 to 70 percent and that is unacceptable,” said Dino explaining that the drop in sales was a result of the reopening of the dump site which was ordered reopened last June to help save the city millions of pesos from throwing its trash in a private landfill in Consolacion town, northern Cebu.

Osmeña believed that the contract with the private entity was questionable while the city, he said, also paid too much in tipping fees.

Landfill operations had shifted to Consolacion in January 2015 when the Inayawan landfill was ordered closed by then mayor Michael Rama because of its overcapacity.

The city then resorted to dumping garbage at P700 per ton in Consolacion where at times, private haulers had to be outsourced for another P800 per ton on top of the tipping fee of P700 per ton.

Asked about the rising complaints against the stench coming from the reopened dump site, Osmeña pointed to the Cebu City Council for not acting on his budget request for improvements in the landfill.

“I know, it’s really bad. But you know, the anapog (limestone) will help. But the council is sitting on that because the council wants us to spend P20 million a month to help the Consolacion dumpsite. I will not help them. We’re not going to close it. We’re going to try to mitigate the smell. They will spray it,” he said.

“They don’t like to fund the anapog (limestone). Basta, we’re doing what we can. They’re there laughing at us because they want the people to suffer. Ambot kinsa’y nakakwarta didto sa Consolacion. P20 million a month ang atong gasto, buang sila (I don’t know who made money there in Consolacion. We spent P20 million a month, they’re crazy),” said Osmeña.

Meanwhile, Dino wanted DENR to answer why it had given its consent to reopen the dump site when it had earlier advocated for its closure.

“Kasi before I know they ordered it closed and now they ordered it open again. So which is which? Is it really hazardous? Is it legal? I don’t know,” Dino said adding that he may decide to meet with the mayor after talking to DENR and the business sector.

“I want to listen first, kay these businessmen naglisod na, ang mga tawo naglisod na baho kaayo (because these businessmen are having a hard time and so are the people because of the terrible smell). If it’s bad for the economy then it’s bad for the people,” Dino said.

The new normal

Unable to stand the stench coming from the Inayawan landfill, students of a nearby university have resorted to wearing masks during their class.

Nuel Pacudan Crucio, a teacher from the University of Cebu-Maritime Education and Training Center (UC-METC) in Barangay Mambaling, Cebu City posted photos of his students wearing masks while in class. The post is now making the rounds on Facebook.

“UC-METC scene at 5pm during my Marine Environment class. Wearing masks is the only way to be protected from air pollution caused by the Inayawan dumpsite foul odor. The 1987 Philippine Constitution provides for a healthful ecology and the public must be protected from any environmental pollution. Hope this message gets the Cebu city government’s attention,” read the caption of the photos posted past 5pm, Wednesday.

Crucio, a licenced environmental planner, told Cebu Daily News that while the smell from the landfill has been there for years, it was the first time for a class to wear masks due to the odor which smelled like dead animals and feces and which reached them more often now.

He said his students have become disturbed and obviously bothered by the smell, that he suggested they bring masks in class. Each mask costs around P7.

“It’s becoming like a new normal for us. When I saw them wearing the masks, natandog ko ba nga kaluoy sa akong mga estudyante (I was moved, I felt pity for my students). I asked the campus director for permission to post the photos publicly. I just wanted to share it and hopefully the city government will see,” he said.

At City Hall, Department of Public Services (DPS) head and former city councilor Roberto Cabarrubias said he saw the photos and asked for understanding.

“We have around 600 tons of garbage per day on average. We only have two backhoes. We wanted to flatten the area but unluckily our three bulldozers are not functioning,” he said.

Cabarrubias said they needed to get a P10 million budget to flatten the mountains of garbage to around 1.8 meters high only and fill them with 0.2 meters of limestone to minimize, if not completely eradicate, the smell.

He said the plan was shelved by the Cebu City Council which prompted the DPS to try out the use of enzymes or good bacteria to control the smell coming from the dump site.

“We will observe if it will have a good effect. We might propose to purchase enzymes to control the foul smell. If our outsourcing budget is enough, we can use that. If not, then we’d have to go back to the council again,” he said.

“Close it!”

Meanwhile, Cebu City Councilor Joel Garganera, who heads the committee on environment, is moving for the landfill’s closure.

“This coming Tuesday, I may file a resolution for the immediate closure of the landfill. But I will give them 15 days to look for another alternative on where to dump the garbage,” Garganera said adding that even before photos of the masked students became viral, SRP businesses have long complained about the smell which was usually strongest in the afternoon at around 3-4 p.m.

If the mayor refuses to act on his resolution, Garganera threatened to file a Writ of Kalikasan before the Court of Appeals (CA) to compel the city to close the landfill.

Garganera denied that the council was sitting on the executive department’s proposal to develop the existing landfill.

He said that on the contrary, it was the executive department who did not send a representative when the council called for an executive session to discuss its proposal.

Over at the Department of Health, Rennan Cimafranca, chief of the Regional Epidemiological and Surveillance Unit (Resu-7) warned that the foul odor from the landfill may cause respiratory illnesses like asthma and cough.

“We don’t know what kind of gas emission is present in the area.. there are barangay health stations in the affected areas that can help in monitoring,” Cimafranca said.

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