Payatas Dumpsite Tragedy 12 Years Later: When Shall We Learn?

In observance of the 12th anniversary of the Payatas dumpsite tragedy in Quezon City, the EcoWaste Coalition, a waste and pollution watchdog, urged the Aquino government and the Filipino people not to forget the dreadful manmade disaster and instead learn from it.

Twelve years ago, on July 10, an avalanche of garbage in Payatas dumpsite collapsed due to incessant rains brought about by typhoons “Edeng” and “Ditang” burying hundreds of residents alive and killing over 300 women, men and children.

“The lessons of Payatas remain relevant today as we continue to wrestle with our burgeoning waste problems. Sadly, the misfortune that shocked our nation and the world was apparently not enough to move us into embracing real solutions to the persistent garbage crisis,” said Von Hernandez, President, EcoWaste Coalition.

“Instead of shutting down, cleaning up and decontaminating the perilous dumpsites, illegal waste disposal facilities continue to exist in total violation of R.A.9003,” he noted.

“Nothing much has changed under P-Noy’s administration. The implementation of the law still leaves much to be desired,” he added.

R.A. 9003, the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, directs the closure of open and controlled dumpsites by February 16, 2004 and February 16, 2006,respectively.

Latest data obtained from the website of the National Solid Waste Management Commission list 643 open and 384 controlled dumpsites nationwide.

RA 9003 further directs the establishment of materials recovery facilities (MRFs), also known as ecology centers, in every barangay or cluster of barangays to promote and support waste prevention and reduction at grassroots level.

“Many bureaucrats and politicians remain fixated with garbage disposal through landfills and even waste incinerators instead of implementing robust ecological solid waste management programs anchored on waste prevention, reduction, separation at source, reuse, recycling and composting,” Hernandez commented.

To eradicate dependence on costly garbage disposal facilities, the EcoWaste Coalition urged the authorities to carry out community-driven and socially inclusive Zero Waste resource management program to reduce the volume and toxicity of garbage and divert reusable, recyclable and compostable materials away from cement kilns, incinerators, landfills and dumpsites.

If the country has only learned from the lessons of Payatas, there would have been no more deadly dumpsite incidents after it, the EcoWaste Coalition said.

In 2011 alone, two major garbage slides occurred in Baguio City on August 27 at the Irisan dumpsite that killed five people and in Olongapo City on September 27 at Barangay New Cabalan that claimed three lives, the group said.

To avert more dumpsite incidents, the EcoWaste Coalition reiterated its call for a decisive closure, cleanup and rehabilitation of all dumpsites.

Dumpsite closure, cleanup and rehabilitation plans, the EcoWaste Coalition emphasized, should observe certain “best practices,” including the organization of a multipartite monitoring team per facility with strong public representation, the historical assessment of dumped waste materials to ascertain the necessary remedial measures, the establishment of leachate collection and treatment systems, and the implementation of an action plan to address the livelihood and housing needs of informal recyclers.