The waste and pollution watchdog said such a declaration would signify the President’s resolve to rectify the most brazen breach of Republic Act 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, which bans the open dumping of trash.
“Even if it is notoriously behind schedule, any swift and resolute action by the chief executive to stop the dumpsites from further damaging the environment will be utterly good for human and ecological health,” Romy Hidalgo, Vice-President of the EcoWaste Coalition, said.
“It’s high time for President Arroyo to crack the whip on coddlers and operators of illegal dumpsites and let environmental health and justice win through if she wants to leave a legacy of having shut down these major pollution sources,” he stated.
While R.A. 9003 requires open dumpsites to seize operations in February 2004 and controlled dumpsites in February 2006, the second quarter data from the National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC) show 838 open and 397 controlled dumpsites still in operation all over the country.
“Their continued operation, in clear defiance of the law, is made worst by the unhurried establishment of barangay-based ecology centers or materials recovery facilities (MRFs) that are meant to help in building clean and vibrant communities that recycle and care for Mother Earth,” Hidalgo added.
The latest available data from the NSWMC show that there are only 5,070 MRFs servicing 5,508 barangays out of the country’s 42,000 barangays.
For his part actor Roy Alvarez, a member of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Steering Committee, stressed the importance of having the dumpsites not only closed, but also adequately monitored and decontaminated.
“Dumpsites are ticking toxic time bombs that require honest-to-goodness rehabilitation to reduce the risks of chemical pollution that could affect the air, water and soil quality and safety and endanger public health,” Alvarez said.
At last week’s “State of the Nature Address” (or Green SONA) sponsored by Green Convergence, the EcoWaste Coalition lamented “the myopic focus on waste disposal to the exclusion of Zero Waste and toxics reduction at source,” even as the group pushed “for policy and budget shift from waste disposal to comprehensive national program on waste prevention, reduction, reuse, recycling and composting.”
In addition to the immediate closure, clean up and rehabilitation of all dumpsites, the EcoWaste Coalition identified key action proposals that the citizenry, government and industry should pursue to tackle the waste and toxic woes facing the country.
Some of these action points include using clean production and extended producer responsibility as a framework to achieve closed-loop, non-toxic economy; phasing out single-use plastic bags and packaging materials with low or non-existent recycling rates; adopting and funding a National Ecological Solid Waste Management System anchored on waste prevention, volume and toxicity elimination or reduction, segregation at source, reuse, recycling and composting, and not on costly and polluting landfills and incinerators.
The group also proposed the development of a comprehensive national chemical safety policy and program that will protect the people and the ecosystems from the adverse effects of toxic chemicals, including materials substitution, toxics use elimination or reduction and non-incineration approaches for managing toxic, hazardous and infectious wastes.
The EcoWaste Coalition further urged the authorities to shut down existing incinerators and to cease and desist from allowing the combustion of municipal, healthcare and industrial discards as alternative fuels in cement kilns.