November 21 - December 04, 2005


Public health hazard

A recent visit to the city waste disposal site has revealed a growing pile of garbage. While the pile has not yet reached gigantic proportions reminiscent of Manila’s infamous “smokey mountain,” the continuing pile-up of garbage is causing concern.

Enter the regional DENR office; in a letter addressed to the City chief executive, DENR regional executive director Victor Ancheta, refers to the city waste disposal site as an “established sanitary landfill” which is not fulfilling certain requirements. Specifically, “current practices of open dumping and the absence of a leachate collection and treatment system, do not conform to the technical guidelines and criteria for its operations.”

This contradictory statement has only added to the confusion. How can the city waste disposal site be considered as a sanitary landfill when the site does not conform to the requirements necessary to be classified as a sanitary landfill? The letter dated November 21, 2005, is explicit as to the violations of RA 9003 known as the Ecological Solid Waste Act of 2000 - open dumping of garbage and non-treatment of waste.

Further, the letter refers to the existence of a ‘Material Recovery Facilities’ (MRF) as well as to the practice of garbage segregation. Currently, there is no strict implementation of garbage segregation. In previous years, we recall efforts to segregate garbage into several categories such as organic and non-organic such as plastics and metals. While the non-enforcement of this part of the law may be a fault of the city government, the blame must also be shared by the citizenry, whose duty it is to segregate garbage before handing them over for disposal. Further, an ocular inspection of the landfill reveals no other facilities which may be construed as an MRF; the only visible “structure” on site is the growing “hill of garbage.”

This issue has come to be contested based on definitions and the repeated arguments have focused on the question: Is the city waste disposal area a sanitary landfill or not? As originally envisioned, the creation of a new waste disposal site in Bgy.54 was planned as a sanitary landfill. However, in its current state and operation, the site is nothing more than a dumpsite. In fact the DENR regional office also stated: “In view of the requirement, and lest we be charged for dereliction of duty, we are constrained to order the immediate cessation of dumping activities thereat that would constitute violation of the act.”

The issue here is not what defines a sanitary landfill and whether or not our dumpsite is a sanitary landfill. The concern here is that there is a garbage disposal problem as evident in the growing mound of garbage that threatens the health and safety of the public. Further, there are reports that the groundwater has been contaminated by seepage. This poses a danger not only to the residents of Bgy.54 but to all the people in Laoag City and even Vintar town. This is the real issue.

So? The city engineering office, which has the main responsibiltiy, should study further, much more consult with the DENR, and solve this problem. It has to correct the flaws of the dumping site in order to make it a real sanitary landfill. Seeking for additional maintenace budget from the city council will not solve the problem because there is nothing to maintain in the first place.

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