R.A. 9003, enacted by the 11th Congress in December 2000 six months after the Payatas dumpsite tragedy and signed into a law by then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo on January 26,2001, stipulates the “adoption of best environmental practices in ecological solid waste management, excluding incineration.”
Environmentalist Von Hernandez and Sonia Mendoza, who both received “Zero Waste” awards at the culmination of the three-day “Zero Waste Fair” yesterday in Quezon City, urged concerned citizens and entities to take tough action against non-conforming local government units (LGUs) and national government agencies (NGAs) if only to rouse officials who are sleeping on the job and compel them into enforcing the law.
Hernandez, the outgoing President of the EcoWaste Coalition, cited three things to hasten the enforcement of the waste law, which seeks to conserve resources, curb pollution, including the emission of greenhouse gases, and protect the public health, climate and the environment.
“To remedy the languid enforcement of R.A. 9003, responsible officials must implement the law faithfully, replicate and mainstream successful Zero Waste programs and initiatives, and hold recalcitrant LGUs and NGAs accountable for their failure to enforce the law,” said Hernandez.
“After more than a decade, responsible government units should stop making excuses, including pushing the use of incinerators, as if that will solve our perennial problems with trash. If local government units like the city of San Fernando have proven they can do it and benefit immensely from the faithful implementation of the law, there is really no excuse why others cannot, except failure of leadership,” he emphasized.
Mendoza, the incoming President of the EcoWaste Coalition, called for “intensive public information, education and communication activities to popularize Zero Waste values and practices, for decentralized waste management down to the barangay level and for legal action to put R.A. 9003 in force.”
“Sueing erring mayors and other officials has strong legal basis in the law,” said Mendoza, citing Section 52 of R.A. 9003, which provides for the filing of citizen suits in order to enforce the provisions of the law.
According to Section 52, any citizen may file an appropriate civil, criminal or administrative action in the proper courts/bodies against any public officer who willfully or grossly neglects the performance of an act specifically enjoined as a duty by the law.
Section 52 also allows the filing of citizen suits against the Department of Environment and Natural Resources or other implementing agencies with respect to orders, rules and regulations issued inconsistent with R.A. 9003.
The EcoWaste Coalition noted the following as some of the most conspicuous violations of R.A. 9003:
1. The illegal operation of over 1,000 open and controlled dumpsites across the country, which should have been shut down in February 2004 and February 2006, respectively.
3. The construction and operation of so-called “sanitary landfills” in watershed areas, in flood-prone places and near water bodies, which receive mixed waste instead of just residuals.
4. The wanton disregard of specific acts prohibited by R.A. 9003 such as littering, open burning, open dumping, construction of dumps in environmentally critical areas, and the manufacture, distribution, use or importation of non-environmentally acceptable products and services.