Sunday, November 21, 2010

Greenpeace confirms the facts—and the fears

Also in Karambola sa dwIZ, we had the opportunity to speak to the international environmental organization Greenpeace in connection to the recent public uproar regarding the reported plans by the Quezon City government to expand the illegal Payatas dump.

Greenpeace confirmed the existence of such a plan and announced that it had filed a case against the Quezon City government. Greenpeace is joined in this cause by the larger Eco Waste Coalition which has actively opposed the operation of the city dump since 2004.

Greenpeace spokesperson Beau Baconguis said the new dump is being referred to by the city government as an “engineered landfill”. But environmentalist groups remain wary about the fact that a dump would still be a dump, whether it is engineered or otherwise.

According to Baconguis, his group will oppose the expanded dump because it remains a danger to the environment due to the toxic landfill leachates that emanate from it. Not to mention of course the danger that such chemicals pose to human lives and health.

That Greenpeace and the Eco Waste Coalition are at the forefront of the opposition to the expanded Payatas dump should worry Quezon City Mayor Herbert “Bistek” Bautista. Greenpeace is an international organization. It is safe to presume that just like Payatas I, the expanded Payatas II has already attracted international attention.

Already, the Quezon City residents are upset over an apparent betrayal of their trust on the part of Bautista. The mayor had earlier announced that he was committed to shutting down Payatas “on or before December 30 this year” after keeping it in operation for 10 years in what appears to be a clear and flagrant violation of the country’s environmental laws.

Environment Secretary Ramon Paje himself confirmed this outright violation of the law even as he admitted the seeming impotence of the national government to deal with this.

But the public appeared ready to forget this pathetic situation when Bautista announced that the end of Payatas was within sight…only to be disappointed by news that what the mayor actually intends to do is open up Payatas’ adjacent lot, thereby simply expanding the old dump’s area. And now we learn that it will be called an “engineered” dump.

A week ago, the public’s fears were based on reports from the environmentalist circles.

Greenpeace has now confirmed the facts—as well as the fears.

Now, we can say for sure that Bautista’s was an empty promise. Clearly, he manipulated public emotion.

Greenpeace and other environmentalist groups say they will sustain their opposition to a Payatas II because of the damage to the environment that the mayor’s scheme could cause.

But there is more than just damage to the environment to fear.

Quezon City residents could end up paying for what Greenpeace said would be the continuing destruction of that city’s environment.


In our column last week, we bared that the Payatas dump was not only illegal. Taxpayers paid for its operation. And taxpayers paid expensive fees.

We explained that this was something ironic—and puzzling —because Bautista’s local government actually owns the land where the illegal Payatas I dumpsite sits.

Now, the prospective Payatas II is reportedly a private piece of land.

We reiterate the nagging question that festers in the people’s mind. Would this mean even more expensive fees for the garbage haulers and operators? Taxpayers will have to be charged more for Quezon City’s looming use of the Payatas II dump?

And would calling the expanded dump “engineered” justify the heavier toll it would take on public funds?

Wouldn’t an “engineered” dump on private land mean “more expensive”?

Greenpeace says it has been fighting the Payatas dump and the idea of an “engineered” version of this facility since 2000. It fought these symbols of death and environmental destruction alongside the Church and other civic groups.

The strong stand of Greenpeace and other environmental groups against Bautista’s scheme gives us hope that a Payatas II could still be stopped.

It is sad that the country has to rely on volunteer groups like Greenpeace to champion the compliance by local government units to the country’s environmental laws.

Secretary Paje admitted that his agency is helpless. It seems Bautista is set to take advantage of that helplessness.

We can only keep our fingers crossed that environmental groups would not blink or get tired in the battle for the environment.


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