NEW DUMPSITE: SRP
Cebu City began dumping its garbage at the South Road Properties (SRP) yesterday despite warnings from environment officials, a city councilor and a legal luminary that the city government is courting lawsuits for environmental violations.
Department of Environment and Natural Resources in Central Visayas (DENR-7) Director Emma Melana said they have yet to decide on what action to take, but she warned City Hall that it is violating waste management laws.
“Based on the law, an open dumpsite is not allowed regardless of location,” Melana said in a text message to Cebu Daily News yesterday.
Melana said the regional Environmental Management Bureau (EMB-7) will be calling concerned city officials to a conference to resolve the city’s garbage disposal issue, stressing that City Hall should look for immediate solution on where to dispose its garbage.
Councilor Joel Garganera, reached for comment last night, said he would proceed with filing a case against Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña before the Office of the Ombudsman-Visayas if the latter will still insist on dumping the waste at SRP.
“Gahi kaayo nag ulo mayora. If he will not stop probably within the week (I’ll file a case) kay he is really testing the court (That mayor is so hardheaded. If he will not stop then probably within the week I’ll file a case with the Ombudsman-Visayas because he is really testing the court),” Garganera said.
City Hall decided to dump the garbage at the back of the Department of Public Services (DPS) building on SRP after the city government was ordered by the Court of Appeals to close the Inayawan landfill.
However, at least 51 city-owned dump trucks with tons of garbage still drove to the Inayawan landfill on Saturday morning to dispose of wastes collected from the different barangays in the city.
By 5 p.m., the garbage trucks began dumping their wastes in the area behind the DPS building on SRP, which was earlier described as a “transfer station” by DPS head Roberto Cabarrubias.
Cabarrubias said they would be dumping the waste at the DPS area for three days while developing a bigger site, also within SRP. This “final temporary dumping area” is the one-hectare land located between two major commercial and residential developments on SRP, the upscale condominium enclave City di Mare of Filinvest Land and the SM Seaside Cebu, one of the country’s biggest mall complex.
CDN tried to secure comments from the Filinvest and SM managements, but both companies declined to issue statements.
No open dumpsite allowed
But retired Cebuano judge Simeon Dumdum Jr. cautioned the city government against dumping the collected garbage at SRP.
Dumdum Jr., former presiding judge of the Regional Trial Court Branch 7 in Cebu City, said the city has to comply with requirements that include securing an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) from the DENR.
An ECC is a document issued by the DENR’S EMB, certifying that the proposed project or undertaking will not cause significant negative environmental impact.
“The city cannot just dump its garbage at the SRP just like that. There are processes that need to be complied with,” Dumdum told CDN over the phone yesterday.
He cited Section 37 of Republic Act (RA) 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000 which prohibits open dumps for solid waste.
Open dumps, the law says, should be replaced with sanitary landfills and material recovery or recycling facilities.
“No person shall commence operation, including site preparation and construction of a new solid waste management facility or the expansion of an existing facility until said person obtains an Environment Compliance Certificate from the Department and other permits and clearances form concerned agencies,” the law read.
“Tommy (Mayor Tomas Osmeña) should consider the provisions in the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000,” Dumdum said.
Under RA 9003, local government officials and officials of government agencies concerned who fail to comply with and enforce rules and regulations promulgated in relation to this law shall be charged administratively.
Any citizen may file an appropriate civil, criminal or administrative action in the proper courts against persons who violate RA 9003.
Dumdum said he could not file a case against the city government since retired judges are barred from pursuing legal actions against the state — a condition set and agreed upon when he retired in 2014.
“I’m sure there are other parties out there who will be filing a case (against the city government),” he said.
Dumdum, a columnist of CDN, expressed dismay over the failure of the city government to address the problem on garbage disposal.
While taking coffee in one of the commercial establishments at the SRP, Dumdum said he could smell the stench from the Inayawan landfill as well as noticed black flies that might have come from the dumpsite.
“It’s really an ugly site to behold. Unsa pa kaha kon diha na gyud sa SRP ilabay ang mga basura (How much more if they dump the garbage at the SRP)?” he asked.
Cabarrubias said he cannot assure that the current dumpsite will not produce foul smell, but DPS will do anything to mitigate the possible stench.
Cabarrubias maintained they were only heeding the CA order to stop dumping the garbage in Inayawan and would continue to dump the waste in SRP until they will find an alternative dumpsite.
“What we did today is to use the area that was provided by the previous administration at the back of DPS as its transfer station. We bulldozed and flattened the area and created a road where our trucks can pass through for their garbage drops,” Cabarrubias said in Cebuano.
Five days only?
Cabarrubias said they can actually only dump garbage at the SRP for five days since the capacity of the one-hectare lot is only up to about 2,500 tons of garbage, and the city collects about 500 tons of garbage per day.
He said they were now scouting for an area, again in SRP, as “another transfer station” that they can use until next month.
He said they were now scouting for another area and would make Osmeña decide on the final site.
Melana, for her part, also said the city government “must seriously implement waste segregation at source and other waste reduction means to bring down its waste volume to twenty percent.”
Melana said the DENR, through EMB-7, will be happy to extend technical assistance and guidance to the city government on how to put together an integrated solid waste management program.
EMB-7 Director William Cuñado, meanwhile, said they have organized a four-man monitoring team led by EMB-7’s chief legal officer Unalee Monares to ensure that the city government complies with the order to close the Inayawan landfill.
“After the team assessment next week, we will meet with Cebu City (officials) and discuss what possible recommendations (for a new garbage disposal area),” he told CDN.
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