CITY NOT READY TO CLOSE INAYAWAN LANDFILL
Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña is now under pressure to make a decision on whether or not to close the 17-year-old Inayawan sanitary landfill.
With Environment Secretary Gina Lopez saying she wants the landfill closed, Osmeña admitted he is now in a quandary as to what the city’s next move will be.
But the mayor is not about ready to give up the fight to keep the landfill open.
“At this point, I have to rethink the situation. But very clearly, I cannot disobey the law. And it’s still in court. I don’t think she can close it without permission from the court,” he said in a press conference yesterday.
Osmeña said he was confused and was “mentally dislocated” by Lopez’s “sudden change of heart” because when they met at the landfill site for an ocular inspection on Thursday, the Environment secretary was of the opinion that the facility could still be fixed and rehabilitated at a reasonable cost.
He said he was happy with Lopez’ pronouncement because that was exactly the city’s plan. In fact, he said, the P7.2 billion budget proposal for 2017 included a P600-million item for the rehabilitation and ultimate closure of the landfill.
But since there is still a pending hearing on the petition for a temporary environmental protection order (Tepo) that City Councilor Joel Garganera has filed before the Court of Appeals (CA), Osmeña said his best option now will be to wait for the CA resolution.
Asked if this means that the city will continue using the landfill until a court order stopping the city from doing so is released, the mayor said: “Do you have a better idea? One thing’s for sure, I cannot leave it (garbage) out in the streets.”
Osmeña is set to personally attend the next CA hearing on Monday where he said he will be answering questions from the CA justices.
The Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in Central Visayas (DENR-7) also decided not to take any action while the issue is still pending in court, since the bureau’s regional director was also named a respondent in the petition for a Writ of Kalikasan that Garganera has filed before the CA.
EMB-7 regional director William Cuñado said that even with Lopez’s public pronouncement, they won’t issue a closure order of the Inayawan landfill just yet.
“We respect the secretary in her declaration. But we should also observe proper proceedings. We asked for a legal opinion on this. Together with (DENR Undersecretary Isabelo) Montejo, we will just observe the court hearing on Monday,” Cuñado told Cebu Daily News.
Cuñado said he relayed the same position to City Hall’s environmental consultant Nida Cabrera during their meeting yesterday.
DENR-7 regional director Emma Melana was also named respondent in the petition for a Writ of Kalikasan filed by Garganera.
Lopez, after visiting the landfill on Thursday afternoon with city officials led by Osmeña, had initially agreed with the mayor’s position that the facility could still be fixed. But she changed her mind hours later after finding out that the landfill poses a marine environmental hazard since it is located beside the sea on a reclamation area.
She said the city government has to find a different area to dump its garbage since toxic waste can reach and contaminate the sea and its marine habitat.
Garganera said that the pronouncement of Lopez would hopefully bolster his call for the immediate closure of the Inayawan Landfill. “It’s a very welcome pronouncement because that is our aim, that it should be closed. That’s the meat and prayer of our petition – the immediate closure. It’s not only us, it is also supported by findings of the DOH (Department of Health), DENR and EMB. I welcome the move and hopefully, the mayor will follow the law,” he said.
Inayawan barangay Captain Lutherlee “Lotlog” Ignacio-oon, who has long supported the closure of the landfill in his barangay, likewise urged the city government to heed the recommendation of Lopez.
“It is for the benefit of my constituents, specially their health. It is high time the city government should look for a long term and permanent solution to solve the garbage problem in our city,” she said.
The city government, however, also aimed to present its long-term solution to the city’s landfill issue before the CA on Monday.
According to Osmeña, they would be presenting to a CA a three-phase rehabilitation and closure program for the landfill.
Under the plan, the first phase will include expanding the current landfill, constructing a bridge connecting the facility to the South Road Properties (SRP), and construction of additional riprap wall around the facility.
The first phase projects will cost the city P500 million but will give the facility an added capacity of 800,000 tons of garbage and an additional lifespan of 2.5 years, as well as an estimated savings of P300 million.
The second phase, which will cost P250 million, will include expanding the capacity of the landfill to enable the facility to accommodate an additional 400,000 tons of garbage and extend its lifespan to another 1.25 years.
The last phase will be about capping off the landfill after its useful life and putting up an area for adaptive re-use, like a park or a golf course.
Osmeña earlier bared plans to develop the landfill into a golf course after it is permanently closed in about four years.
But yesterday, Osmeña announced plans that the area can also be used as a new site for the Cebu City Jail (formerly the Bagong Buhay Rehabilitation Center or BBRC) and even the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center, which are both congested.
“My plan is to rehabilitate it. We will process all the garbage that’s there, to recover what we can recover and convert it to energy. And once it’s all cleaned up, we will transfer the BBRC there and even the provincial jail (there),” he said.
It’s Rama’s fault
He again pointed a finger at former mayor Michael Rama who, he said, did not close the landfill but just abandoned it with no plans of rehabilitating it.
“It’s all thrown on me. I have to do all these things overnight. I will do whatever I can under the circumstances,” he said.
Rama closed the Inayawan landfill in 2015 and opted to send the city’s garbage to a private sanitary landfill located in Consolacion, a town 21 kilometers north of Cebu City, for a tipping fee of P700 per ton, or for about P8 million to P10 million a month.
Osmeña has objected to this arrangement and refused to pay the P32 million that was owed by the city government to Asian Energy Systems Corp., which operates the Consolacion landfill, and instead decided to reopen Inayawan Landfill soon after he assumed office last July.
Yesterday, the mayor announced he also plans to bid out the city’s garbage collection and disposal services to contractors who can give the lowest price.
Asked for details, he said he would not want to discuss them yet since he was also still “confused” with the recent developments, reiterating he would rather wait first for the CA’s decision before deciding on his next move.
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