Osmeña, Garganera argue landfill case before CA
In an awaited face off, Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña and Cebu City Councilor Joel Garganera finally went head to head before the Court of Appeals (CA) yesterday over a core environmental issue that has long been the subject of numerous complaints.
Osmeña and Garganera’s paths crossed at 2 p.m. yesterday during a CA hearing on the granting of a Temporary Environmental Protection Order (TEPO) against the continued use of the city’s 15-hectare landfill in Barangay Inayawan.
Though seated on opposite sides of the jampacked CA hearing room, the tension was clear as Garganera and Osmeña intently listened when the other was speaking, trading cold glances at each other.
It was agreed that the city already needed to stop dumping its garbage in the facility; but both parties could not agree on when.
Garganera, chair of the city’s environment committee, wants it done immediately; while Osmeña insisted that this could not be done so easily because the city still needed to find an alternative site to dump its trash.
The continued disagreement between the two camps prompted the CA justices to ask all parties, including the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) to submit position papers within 15 days to the CA which will then come up with its decision on the TEPO.
The parties were also asked to come up with a consent agreement to set the timeline for the closure of the landfill with the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), who represents DENR in the case, as mediator.
If they successfully do so, this agreement will be honored by court. If they don’t, the CA will rule on the petition based on the position papers of the parties.
“We ask the parties to submit your position papers without prejudice to the discussions on the consent agreement. If you can’t agree, we will decide based on your position papers,” said CA executive justice Gabriel Ingles.
During the hearing, State Solicitor Cheryl Angeline Roque-Javier explained that the city really needed to stop dumping more garbage in the 17-year-old Inayawan landfill.
She explained that this was what DENR Secretary Gina Lopez meant when she proclaimed after a visit last week that the city should close down the facility.
“The statement of Sec. Gina Lopez is just a reiteration of the position of the national government to close the landfill. It has been recognized by the local government unit when they sent a letter to the EMB requesting to temporarily open the landfill again,” Javier told the justices.
Javier also pointed to a resolution passed by the Cebu City Council last month authorizing Mayor Osmeña to negotiate with other landfill owners to find an alternative dumping site for the city.
Javier told the justices that there were at least 11 available landfills in the province although only five were operational as of the moment.
Two of these operational landfills were privately owned and both located in the town of Consolacion.
The other three, she said, were managed by the local government units of Talisay City, and the towns of Asturias and Balamban, midwest of Cebu.
Osmeña reiterated that though he was willing to stop using the Inayawan landfill, the city was not going to go back to dumping garbage in a private landfill in Consolacion since the city did not have enough trucks to go there.
“The city used to pay P1,500 per ton for a private hauler to dump the garbage in Consolacion including the tipping fee. If we have 600 tons of garbage a day, that’s P900,000 a day. Your honors, money is not of paramount consideration, but it can be used for other priorities. At P900,000 a day, that will be P320 million a year. If we give P10,000 to each scholar in the city, that is equal to 32,000 scholars,” he said.
Osmeña counter proposal
Osmeña asked for “time and breathing room” since the city still needed to look for a budget source and undergo a procurement process through public bidding.
He said he was giving himself until January 1 to look for another dumping site and transporter.
Until then, he asked that the city still be allowed to dump trash in Inayawan.
Garganera’s lawyer, Jasper Lucero, however, argued that since it has already been admitted that there was a need to stop dumping in the landfill, such must be done immediately.
“Is it not reasonable to give the respondent time considering that they’re asking until January 1?” Justice Ingles asked Lucero to which the lawyer responded by citing “urgency” due to health hazards posed by the landfill.
“This is not politics. I don’t get votes from them anyway. It gets personal. I talked a lot with those affected. They fear for the safety and health of their children. It is immediate, it is urgent and it has to be now,” Garganera told the justices.
At the end of the hearing, the proposed “consent agreement” did not look possible as both parties did not appear convinced.
Osmeña said that while he was willing to discuss the matter with DENR, he said he does not want to sit down with Garganera, while Garganera told reporters that it would be better for the CA to just already rule on the issue.
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