Quezon City. As the country’s waste law enters its eight year today, a waste and pollution watchdog sounded the warning bell against unchecked violations, pointing out that its poor enforcement is not only a national embarrassment but a serious threat to public health and the climate.

The EcoWaste Coalition, in a statement said, that Republic Act 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000 that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed into law on 26 January 2001 few days after she assumed the presidency has “dismally failed” in resolving the garbage crisis.

The EcoWaste Coalition cited the prevalence of littering, open dumping, open burning, mixed waste disposal, the proliferation of non-environmentally acceptable packaging materials and other acts prohibited under the law as visible evidence to the failure of the multi-agency National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC) to curb wasting and promote ecological solutions to the waste crisis.

“R.A. 9003 visibly suffers from the same lethargic implementation that we see in other poorly enforced environmental laws,” said Rei Panaligan, coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition, adding that the Commission, currently headed by Environment Secretary Lito Atienza, has dismally failed in its duty and has to “wake up from a deep slumber and get the law working for the people and the environment.”

“We urge the NSWMC and all local government units and sectors of the society to pursue ecological solutions to the waste crisis and progress towards Zero Waste to rid our communities of stinking dumps and bring in green jobs and livelihood opportunities from clean recycling for our people, especially the waste pickers,” Panaligan stated.

Figures obtained from the Commission’s website show that over a thousand dumpsites continue to operate in the country despite the explicit ban on dumping. The data, the Coalition clarifies, do not include “guerilla” dumps often seen in street corners and vacant lots.

As for the required barangay-based Materials Recovery Facilities (MRFs) or Ecology Centers, government statistics show that only 1,714 MRFs serving 1,921 barangays of the country’s 41,994 barangays have been set up to date.

The EcoWaste Coalition warned that dumping, illegal and punishable under the law, presents grave threats to the health of residents and to the air, water and food supply as dumps yield toxic garbage juices called leachate and discharge huge quantities of methane gas and other pollutants that contribute to global warming and ill health.

The group lamented that some of these dirty disposal facilities are located near or within water systems, watersheds, and protected areas such as those in Pier 18 in Tondo, Manila; Payatas, Quezon City; Tanza, Navotas City; and in Rodriguez, Rizal. They also criticized the siting of new
dumps in environmentally-critical areas such as those being constructed or proposed in Norzagaray, Bulacan; Ternate, Cavite; and Alburquerque, Bohol.

“We decry the Commissions’ promotion of so-called sanitary landfills, which are justifiably unwanted by communities, as solutions to the garbage disposal crisis,” complained Romy Hidalgo, coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Task Force on Dumps/Landfills, adding that until now sustained steps to promote and implement waste prevention, reduction, segregation at
source, reuse, recycling and composting are disappointingly lacking.

At their recent assessment and planning meeting held on 23-24 January 2008 in Antipolo City, the EcoWaste Coalition’s Steering Committee resolved to strengthen its campaign for Zero Waste to clean the environment and prevent climate change, including the closure of dumps and the pursuit of pollution-reducing solutions such as eco-friendly lifestyle changes, sustainable consumption and clean production.

For more information, please contact the EcoWaste Coalition at 9290376.

Notes for the Media:

1. R.A. 9003 is the first law signed by PGMA when she assumed the presidency in 2001. It calls for the adoption of a “systematic, comprehensive and ecological waste management program” and the adoption of “best environmental practices in ecological waste management excluding
incineration” to protect the public health and environment.

2. Under R.A. 9003, the barangay is tasked to develop an ecological solid waste management program, promote waste separation at source, enforce a segregated collection for biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste, and establish Materials Recovery Facilities (MRF) or Ecology
Centers in every barangay or cluster of barangays.

3. Relevant figures from the NSWMC’S website at www.denr.gov.ph/nswmc
Open dumps – 677
Controlled dumps – 343
Dumps with submitted closure and rehabilitation plans – 307
Dumps given the “authority to close” – 199
The open dumps, according to Section 37 of R.A. 9003, should have been
closed on 16 February 2004 and the controlled dumps on 16 February 2006.