WHAT’S IN A NAME?
A dumpsite by any other name would still smell as awful. Cebu City continues to dump garbage at the SRP lot
It’s been three days since Cebu City started dumping its garbage, averaging 500 tons per day, at the one-hectare property located at the South Road Properties (SRP).
The property, intended to be only a transfer station, has exceeded the 24-hour time limit within which to transfer the trash to a sanitary landfill.
Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Undersecretary Isabelo Montejo said if it has exceeded the 24-hour limit, then it is no longer a transfer station but a dumping site. But it seems the DENR is not aware that the city has been dumping its trash at the SRP lot since Saturday afternoon.
“Is there really dumping? Meron na bang dumping sa SRP? (Is there dumping at the SRP)?” Montejo asked.
The Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) sent a team led by its Chief Legal Officer Unalee Monares to the area yesterday morning for a site inspection and prepared a formal report which would be sent to the DENR Manila office today.
EMB Director William Cuñado confirmed the dumping of garbage at the SRP property but said it will be the DENR national office that would determine what action to take.
He, however, refused to comment on what action to take for now until the DENR national office issues an order.
Montejo warned that dumping garbage at the SRP is illegal.
“SRP’s environmental compliance certificate does not include a dump site. It is for development, commercial and residential. That (dumping of waste) is not included in the development of SRP na may sanitary landfill,” Montejo told reporters.
Montejo clarified that the EMB-7 can issue a cease and desist order if it is proven that there is really a violation.
“Yes, EMB can issue a cease and desist order, but in the long run, it needs to be handled by the National Solid Waste Commission and Office of the Solicitor General because they handle the Ecological Solid Waste Management,” Montejo said.
Citizens who are affected by the garbage at the transfer station at SRP can also file a complaint against the Cebu City government.
If they are to be asked, Cebu City officials have no other option except the SRP property as a temporary transfer station.
Department of Public Services (DPS) chief Roberto Cabarrubias said this is their only “practical” measure considering the “sudden” decision of the Court of Appeals (CA) ordering the city to permanently close the Inayawan landfill.
“Ang atong transfer station, ideal na siya. Practicality lang ni atoa. It’s not for long. Ang ato man gud, asa nato ilabay? Wa man tay lugar kalabayan,” he said in an interview.
(Our transfer station is already ideal. This is the most practical. It’s not for long. We really don’t have any other place to dump our garbage.)
Even Association of Barangay Councils (ABC) president and Tisa barangay captain Philip Zafra said the city’s barangay officials have no choice but to dump their collected garbage at the SRP transfer station.
“I was against the using of the SRP, but we in the barangays have no choice because if we don’t dump at the transfer station, our constituents will suffer with the uncollected garbage,” he said.
Cabarrubias said the DENR and other city officials should not insist on the city reusing the private landfill in Consolacion town because Mayor Tomas Osmeña is firm in his refusal to use the Consolacion landfill after discovering that the city did not have a contract with the private owners.
Although he admitted that there may be violations in operating the one-hectare transfer station near the DPS office at the SRP, Cabarrubias said they will just ask for consideration from the DENR and its EMB.
He assured that the use of the SRP as a place to store the city’s garbage until January next year will only be temporary.
“Antos lang sa ta og one month (Let us bear this for one month),” Cabarrubias said.
Osmeña said the city has not entered into contract with any private landfill in Cebu.
“Once the budget is approved, we will bid out. The city has no contract with any landfill. None. And we spent millions and millions in fees to Consolacion,” the mayor said.
He said those behind the use of the Consolacion landfill violated two laws because there was no bidding and no contract and the city spent millions for the service.
“If I use Consolacion, that’s graft and corruption. If I use SRP, that’s just a technical violation. Asa man ta? (Where will I go?) Technical na lang. I don’t want graft and corruption. I don’t want to go to jail for them,” Osmeña said.
The mayor said he will file a motion for reconsideration on the CA order closing the Inayawan landfill.
“We are filing a motion for a recon but I’m not optimistic because they are going with the words of DENR secretary that it’s bad to have landfill beside the sea and that’s wrong. Who is more right: the DENR secretary or Tomas Osmeña?” Osmeña said.
Osmeña hopes people would understand what he is trying to do since the city would save P1.5 million per day by using the Inayawan landfill.
“The irony of it all, the legal way for me to solve this problem is not to collect the garbage and I could not be accused of using the SRP because I didn’t collect the garbage. The only alternative for me to stress it, is don’t collect the garbage,” Osmeña said.
“To me I don’t care about the law anymore. I will never compromise the safety and health of the Cebuanos. I will never put it in that situation. They want to fire me, they want to put me in jail, I will never allow that to happen. I’d rather be penalized for violating DENR than be accused by graft and corruption and there’s no budget pa, what can I bid out?” he concluded.
The city will be hiring private haulers to bring the city’s garbage from the SRP to the final dumping site.
Once the city finishes the bidding for the private haulers, they will be made to haul all of the dumped garbage at the SRP and bring them to a landfill outside the city.
The transfer station will then be cleaned and the city will look for “innovations” to make sure that the city has an efficient garbage collection and disposal program for next year, said Cabarrubias.
Among their plans, he said, is to privatize the collection and dumping of the city’s garbage using private haulers.
Private haulers will collect the garbage all over the city and immediately dump them in a landfill so that the garbage trucks of the DPS and the barangays will no longer be of use.
“For now, we will ask for reconsideration with Usec. Montejo that this is just temporary. And that this is just a crisis situation because of what happened,” he said.
Sought for comment on the city’s continued use of the SRP as a transfer station, Councilor Joel Garganera said the city should heed the statement of the DENR being the expert on this issue.
“If the mayor will still continue the use of the transfer station in SRP, I will be forced to file a case before the Environmental Ombudsman,” said Garganera, who was the one who filed the petition for a Writ of Kalikasan last September to close the Inayawan landfill.
“It depends, I am still not losing hope that he will change his mind. We will just have to pray harder for the remaining five dawn masses,” he said.
Last October, Montejo and DENR Secretary Gina Lopez were in Cebu City and told the city government to look for an alternative dumping site.
“From October until now, I think it is enough to find another site. As of the moment, the Consolacion landfill has been recommended as an alternative. I was informed that there is a deal in Aloguinsan but it should first be studied if it is fit for a landfill,” Montejo said.
The proposed landfill should not pollute underground water and other areas. Montejo also urged the public to cooperate with the government in waste segregation.
“When we talk about waste, we depend not only on best effort but we also do segregation,” Montejo said. He added that the materials recovery facilities at the barangay level should also be strengthened so that what will reach the landfill are waste that cannot be recycled.
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