Thursday, September 30, 2010

Paje should look at Payatas

Ped Xing is sure environmental campaigner and colleague Joey Papa
would agree that this is the impression that the public appears to
have after hearing national government officials make a pledge over
the weekend of a no repeat of the Ondoy tragedy a full year after it

The apparent lack of sincerity and commitment is manifested by the
continuing inaction of national agencies, particularly the Department
of Environment and Natural Resources, on the issue of the Payatas

The Payatas tragedy is 10 years old this year. And yet, the dumpsite,
the collapse of which killed as many as 219 persons, remains open for
dirty business.

The tragedy took place in July 2000. In the aftermath of heavy rains
spurred by a typhoon, a mountain of garbage collapsed on hundreds of
shanties where scavenger families lived. After that tragedy, there
were also many “pledges” heard from government officials that the
tragedy would not happen again, but it looks like those vows have long
been forgotten, and a Payatas II is feared to happen anytime soon.

Reports say that the size of the garbage pile there has returned to
its pre-July 2000 level. And the residents in that area can only pray
that the remaining typhoons expected to hit the country before the end
of the year would not unleash enough rain to loosen that unstable
mountain of trash cascading down their rebuilt homes again.

But the greater tragedy is that DENR officials appear to have ignored
two important things: first, the continuing risks posed by the
operation of the dumpsite on the health and safety of the public; and
second, the illegality of its continuing operation.

It will be recalled that after the 2000 tragedy, lawmakers promptly
proceeded to craft a remedial legislation, Republic Act 2003 or the
Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000.

The implementing rules and regulations of that RA made two things very
clear: First, that open dumpsites are illegal. Second, erstwhile open
dumpsites subsequently labeled “controlled dumpsites” or “controlled
waste disposal facilities” are also illegal as of 2005 or five years
after RA 2003 was enacted.

This means there is a clear and continuing violation of the law by
the DENR for the past five years. The law is clear: that as of 2005,
all dumpsites, whether open or controlled, are “deemed closed and
phased out”.

So, why does the DENR continue to allow the operation of Payatas? How
come garbage trucks loaded with Quezon City human and industrial
wastes continue their sorties to the site to contribute to that
ever-growing mound of garbage? Is it possible for the DENR officials
not to notice the build-up of that monstrous trash heap?

This is ridiculous. How can they miss that hideous sight? It’s just
impossible. That dumpsite, conveniently re-labeled “controlled
waste disposal facility” is 22 hectares big, about four hectares
larger than the campus of the University of Santo Tomas in EspaƱa.

Those who have managed to come near the site swear the stinking heap
is now about the height of a nine-storey building or a medium-rise

Ped Xing’s embeds in the local community say garbage trucks continue
to offload about 2,000 tons of rubbish there a day.

Yes, on a daily basis – despite its status as an illegal facility.
Now, if the mere existence of the facility is in itself already
illegal, how much more its continued operation?

As DENR head, Secretary Ramon Paje chairs the National Solid Waste
Commission. This body was created also under RA 2003, the very same
law that made the dumpsite illegal. That commission is tasked to
ensure that every provision of the law and its implementing rules and
guidelines are followed to the letter.

Paje’s boss, President Aquino, has vowed an administration that would
lead the nation to “a straight and narrow path” of a moral and
transparent governance and a development plan in harmony with nature
and environmental preservation

Question: By his serial inaction, isn’t Paje breaking that P-Noy
promise by allowing Payatas to continue to operate in violation of
the very law which made him chairman of the National Solid Waste

If the DENR and its head honcho tasked to implement the law can’t or
won’t do the job, then the effort, time, and money spent to enact RA
2003 was just one big solid waste.


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