Communities Hit Environmental Agency for Dumping in Watersheds
20 April, 2009. Quezon City, Philippines – Community activists from the EcoWaste Coalition slam the
Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) for failing to
stop the proliferation of dumpsites in watersheds, foreshore lands and
protected areas, and thus threatening the country’s biodiversity and
water sources with toxic pollutants.
Instead of a cheerful pre-celebration of the Earth Day, community members of the EcoWaste Coalition donning black veils gather in front of the DENR to mourn the government’s failure to curb threats to water safety from dumpsites and other pollution sources.
“Clean water is vital to the survival of humans and other creations. We now know that this finite resource is fast depleting due to unchecked pollution and the increasing demand from our industries and ever-growing population. Then why are we turning our remaining water sources into garbage dumps?” asked community leader Romy Hidalgo, Vice-President of the EcoWaste Coalition.
“If he is really up to the job of environment secretary, we urge Mr. Atienza to close down all the illegal dumpsites now and revoke all environmental compliance certificates issued by the DENR that compromise our people’s long-term access to clean water,” said Hidalgo.
“Our efforts to clean up our rivers and seas will be futile if the government, particularly the DENR, is unable to seriously enforce the law, which explicitly bans and penalizes dumping in water bodies and inappropriate disposal practices,” said Ochie Tolentino, Coordinator, Cavite Green Coalition.
Citing information from the DENR itself, the EcoWaste Coalition bewailed that 97.5% of existing disposal facilities are dumpsites despite the mandated closure of open dumps in February 2004 and controlled dumps in February 2006 under Republic Act 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act.
Many of these polluting disposal facilities for mixed waste, lamented the Coalition, are situated in environmentally-critical areas, including 15 dumpsites around the Laguna Lake basin and its waterways, the Payatas dumpsite, which is next to the La Mesa watershed, and the Montalban dumpsite for Metro Manila’s garbage, which is located inside Proclamation 1636, a protected area in Rizal.
Worst, the DENR has allowed the construction and/or operation of new waste disposal facilities in environmentally-critical places such as the new San Mateo “sanitary” landfill that residents and activists reject as being inside the Marikina watershed in blatant violation of an en banc Supreme Court decision issued in December 2005, which affirms the ban on the construction of landfills and any waste disposal facilities on any aquifer, groundwater reservoir or watershed area under R.A. 9003.
“Marginalized communities are the first to suffer the impact of environmental destruction and toxic pollution. For clean water and for environmental justice, the government has to act now and save the Marikina watershed from further exploitation and degradation,” stated Noli Abinales, adviser of the San Mateo-based Buklod Tao.
Dumps and landfills produce huge amounts of toxic leachate containing heavy concentrations of heavy metals and other chemicals of concern that can contaminate both the surface and ground water. They are also the biggest producers of methane, a greenhouse gas that is 72 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
The EcoWaste Coalition is pushing for a zero waste approach to deal with the country’s unending garbage woes, including the establishment of ecology centers or materials recovery facilities (MRFs) to replace the ugly dumps and facilitate ecological waste management.
At present, only 2,701 barangays out of the 42,000 barangays are benefiting from community recycling through MRFs. In Metro Manila, only 435 barangays out of the 1,695 barangays are being serviced by MRFs.