Crisis as opportunity for mainstreaming ecological waste management

By: Atty. Gloria Estenzo Ramos September 25,2016 - 08:39 PM

Mindfully Greenie

For the Cebu City residents affected by the garbage crisis, the bigger concern to be resolved is not whether Inayawan “landfill” should be closed.

The resolution of this crisis hinges on taking on responsibility not just by the government but by each citizen in doing his or her share in managing the “unwanted” materials, commonly known as “trash”. Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines it as “things that are no longer useful or wanted and that have been thrown away.”

The Inayawan disposal facility, just like open dumpsites all over the Cebu province and in the country, is symptomatic of the complexity of the issue on waste management.

Inayawan exemplifies the Not-In-My-Backyard (NIMBY) mentality where the immediate concern of the waste generators, known as human beings, is the outright removal of the “discarded” materials and disposed far from one’s range of vision — anywhere except in one’s abode or office, that is. It smacks of a dismal lack of ethical responsibility for one’s “discards” and gross indifference to the plight of the community hosting such a disposal facility.

The continuing presence of open dumpsites nationwide is a clear failure of both government and people in complying with the duty to be responsible for the materials that they do not need and to make sure that these do not destroy our natural life support systems and negatively impair the health and quality of life of inhabitants.

It is sad that, sixteen years after its enactment, there is wanton refusal to abide with the hierarchy of ecological waste management practices such as waste avoidance, minimization, reduction, segregation at sources and resource recovery for reusing, recycling and composting clearly mandated by the law, RA 9003, the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000.

Alas, there is a glaring inability of state agencies, including barangays, cities, municipalities and provinces, in understanding and appreciating the public policy behind the law which is “ to adopt a systematic, comprehensive and ecological solid waste management program which shall:
(a) Ensure the protection of the public health and environment;
(b) Utilize environmentally sound methods that maximize the utilization of valuable resources and encourage resource conservation and recovery;
(c) Set guidelines and targets for solid waste avoidance and volume reduction through source reduction and waste minimization measures, including composting, recycling, re-use, recovery, green charcoal process, and others, before collection, treatment and disposal in appropriate and environmentally sound solid waste management facilities in accordance with ecologically sustainable development principles…”

It is indeed upsetting that the law is not seriously given the importance it deserves and thus, the massive problem that we now face. Until recently, that was in February when the Environmental Ombudsman started investigating the alleged dereliction of duties of certain public officials who failed to implement RA 9003, only a handful of government officials or agency pursued its strict enforcement, from the barangay up to the level of national agencies and even the National Solid Waste Management Commission. “Iwas pusoy” is the name of the game.

It is true local government units are “primarily responsible for the implementation and enforcement of the provisions of the law within their respective jurisdictions.” The law provides that :Segregation and collection of solid waste shall be conducted at the barangay level specifically for biodegradable, compostable and reusable wastes: Provided, That the collection of non-recyclable materials and special wastes shall be the responsibility of the municipality or city.”

When barangay officials fail in their mandate, and there are so many which did, are they held accountable by the mayors who exercise supervision over them?

When mayors fail in their responsibility to enforce RA 9003, did supervising governors or for highly urbanized cities, the President, made sure they are held liable?

When the Department of Environment and Natural Resources issued Cease and Desist Orders (CDOs) against non-compliant LGUs operating open dumpsites, did the agency go further and make sure that their CDOs are respected? Or, did they just let it pass and thus the perception of weakness of the agency?
When concerned citizens send Notice to Sue, a procedural requirement before an environmental case can be filed, to the mayors, are the issues they raised given serious attention and acted upon by the local chief executives?

Since no one is held to account for the gross omission to perform their duty, no wonder we are in a state of disaster. But, we must never lose hope. There are still committed citizens and public servants in our midst who care and who understand that the law has to be enforced sooner, not later. This crisis offers the perfect opportunity to mainstream ecological waste management practices and instill discipline for all.

Mahatma Gandhi’s words are especially encouraging. He said: “You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.”

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TAGS: Cebu City, Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000, Inayawan landfill
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