Communities, Green Groups Urge Government to Immediately Close All Toxic Dumps

Quezon City- A week after the tragic “garbageslide” in Baguio City that claimed six lives and left houses in disrepair, residents from different communities affected by existing dumps, together with health and environmental groups, gathered in front of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to demand the immediate closure and rehabilitation of more than 1,000 illegal, toxic dumpsites all over the country. “The Irisan Tragedy is as shocking as it is an unnecessary waste of life. According to RA 9003, Irisan dump and all other garbage dumpsites in the country, should have closed– making the local government of Baguio a blatant, continuing violator of the law as well as severely negligent of the immediate communities’ welfare and health,” said Romeo Hidalgo of the November 17 Movement and co-chair of the Task Force Dumps of the EcoWaste Coalition. “Worst, there are thousands of other communities all over the country facing a similar disaster should local governments continue with their non-feasance in closing down all these toxic dumps,” he added. Carrying a mock-up coffin covered with trash, residents from Payatas in Quezon City, Navotas City, San Mateo in Rizal, and various towns of Cavite affected by dumpsites march to the DENR and they offered prayers for the garabage-slide victims and those they left behind. Under the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000 or Republic Act 9003 (RA9003), open dumpsites should have been closed in 2004, and controlled dumps in 2006. However, according to the data of National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC) posted on their website, there are still 790 open dumps and 382 controlled dumps operating in the country. According to EcoWaste Coalition, the Irisan Tragedy could have been prevented had DENR duly enforced RA 9003, and filed appropriate legal actions against Mayor Mauricio Domogan and other city officials for permitting continuous mixed waste dumping in the facility. “We’ve had RA9003 for years but rather than dutifully observing and enforcing it, we sought ways to circumvent it and keep deleterious facilities operating. Meanwhile, innocent lives pay the price of our prolonged defiance of this law. How many more Payatas and Irisan do we need? How many more innocent lives must pay the price of our neglect?” said Ochie Tolentino of the Cavite Green Coalition. “We demand DENR Secretary Ramon Paje to immediately coordinate with the Department of Interior and Local Government and the Philippine National Police in order to close down all existing dumps post haste, and enforce appropriate actions against local officials who continuously defy the law,” she added. “We are still suffering eleven years after the Payatas garbage slide that some 1,000 people, although only some 200 were retrieved and recorded. Residents near the dump continue to suffer from toxic fumes emitted by the dumps. Respiratory ailments have become common disease while toxic leachate continues to be released to the environment,” said Nita Panoy of Bangon Kalikasan Movement. The EcoWaste Coalition asserted that the DENR must be firm in enforcing the anti-dump provision of RA9003 since it is their primary mandate to protect the environment and safeguard the health of the people. The environment watchdog also called on all local government units to close down all their existing dumps and put into place genuine ecological solid waste management systems based on the principles of people-based management, waste minimization, segregation at-source, and waste diversion within their areas. Groups joining the protest action against dumps are Ang Nars, Ban Toxics!, Bangon Kalikasan Movement, Buklod Tao, Cavite Green Coalition, Diocese of Caloocan-Ecology Ministry, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Greenpeace Southeast Asia, Mother Earth Foundation and November 17 Movement.