Quezon City – In a show of unity and support to the victims of Irisan garbageslide, green groups headed by EcoWaste Coalition trooped to DENR last Monday to demand outright closure and rehabilitation of more than 1,000 illegal, toxic dumpsites all over the country. What was planned to be a peaceful protest ended into a direct dialogue with no less than DENR Secretary Ramon Paje himself who welcomed the groups to DENR’s conference room. The eco-groups took the opportunity to lay out their demands, which incorporate closure of dumpsites all over the country – including Payatas and Irisan; enforcement of more than 900 issued cease and desist orders such as in San Mateo landfill that wiped out shrimps and tulya in San Mateo river after decades of exposing it to toxic leachates; cancellation of Obando landfill’s ECC; inspection of Navotas landfill; advancement of Zero Waste concepts such as waste reduction, segregation-at-source, re-use, recycling, and composting instead of incineration, which is banned under the Clean Air Act of 1999 and Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000; guidelines for Non-Environmentally Acceptable Product and Packaging materials; and Civil Society/People’s Organization-Government co-operation in monitoring dumpsite and landfill compliance with RA 9003 – to which demands Secretary Paje acceded. Moreover, he also disclosed his proposal to MMDA to penalize households and waste collection contractors in Metro Manila who respectively dispose and collect unsegregated wastes. With guarded optimism, EcoWaste’s Task Force Dumps Co-Chair Joey Papa declared “gratefulness for Secretary Paje’s openness to communicate with civil society and frontline communities,” and stressed that “closure and rehabilitation plans should adequately address the needs of dumpsite waste pickers and their families, ensuring that they are provided with humane homes and livelihoods.” On his part, Paeng Lopez of Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives said, “It was good to hear it straight from the Secretary that DENR will not be promoting waste incineration – and it is a welcome commitment considering the misinformed pronouncements of MMDA and Senator Trillanes.” “In connection to that, we also urge other government agencies and officials to open discussions on ecological waste management with emphasis on protecting people’s health and environment,” said Merci Ferrer of Health Care Without Harm, a member organization of EcoWaste Coalition. “On our end, we pledge to stay vigilant as well as help in order to ensure fruition of his promises yesterday,” asserted Noli Abinales from Buklod Tao. “That fruitful day was a welcome first step to honouring the victims of Payatas and Irisan Tragedies. What we will try to ensure now is that the Secretary’s promises be kept,” he added. According to National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC), there are still 790 open dumps and 382 controlled dumps operating in the country in obvious violation of Republic Act 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000, which ordered the closure of open dumpsites in 2004 and controlled dumps in 2006. Groups who joined the protest action and direct dialogue against dumps were Ban Toxics!, Bangon Kalikasan, Buklod Tao, Cavite Green Coalition, Diocese of Caloocan-Ecology Ministry, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Greenpeace, Mother Earth Foundation, and November 17 Movement.