EcoWaste Coalition Bats for Stricter Implementation of R.A. 9003 in Light of the Recent Tragedy in a Sanitary Landfill in Rizal

The collapse of the Rizal Provincial Sanitary Landfill that feared to have buried four employees prompted the EcoWaste Coalition, a waste and pollution watchdog, to press for stricter implementation of R.A. 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste management Act, particularly waste prevention and reduction, and ensuring the safety of operation of sanitary landfills.

Last Friday, April 19, an estimated 300,000 metric tons of trash reportedly collapsed from the 5-month inactive portion of the landfill that buried backhoe operator Gary Balahibo and maintenance personnel Pablito Esto, Rovidico Olog, and Eddie Malano.

“This is not the first time that it happened when a portion of the border wall of the same landfill collapsed amid incessant rains and sent trash cascading down the nearby creek in 2009,” said Commissioner Romeo Hidalgo, NGO Representative, National Solid Waste Management Commission and Co-Chair of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Task Force Dumps and Incinerators.

“As the country commemorates Earth Day yesterday, and while the families grieve for the tragic incident that involved their loved ones, we urge the local government units (LGUs) and landfill operators to learn from this latest garbage disaster in order to avoid similar incidents from happening over and over again,” Comm. Hidalgo added.

How many lives need to perish before we learn and act towards ending our wasteful habits and indiscriminate treatment of the environment?

“We therefore urge concerned LGUs and national government agencies (NGAs) to carry out robust landfill inspections making sure that operators strictly adhere to the health and safety procedures and site criteria requirements in establishing sanitary landfills,” Hidalgo stated.

Fierce weather disturbances and other factors are no longer enough reasons to justify garbage erosion incidents that risk many lives. People need to put an end on this by taking responsibility to the garbage they produce, and by preventing the creation of waste at the onset.

Sound waste management practices such as waste segregation, reuse and recycling, composting, cleaning the production process of materials through the removal of toxic chemicals, avoiding excessive use of packaging materials, and implementing take back mechanisms, need to be inculcated in the minds of both manufacturers and consumers.

Meanwhile, the EcoWaste Coalition commends and supports the action of the Office of The Environmental Ombudsman (OEO) together with the NGAs, LGUs and non-government organizations (NGOs) as they launch the Solid Waste Management Compliance Program yesterday to celebrate Earth Day.

According to the OEO, this partnership between the government and civic groups seeks to inform the public on the critical need of implementing the provisions of the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act (R.A. 9003) and hold concerned government officials and personnel accountable for the effective implementation of the aforementioned law.

“We support this undertaking spearheaded by the OEO to conduct an assessment of various NGAs and LGUs with regards to their environmental compliance with R.A. 9003,” said Aileen Lucero, Acting National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

“It is already 13 years since the enactment of this law and until now, it has not been fully implemented yet. It is high time that we address the government’s feeble implementation of the law on a national scale,” Lucero said.

Lucero added that “the recent tragedy in a sanitary landfill in the province of Rizal could have been prevented had the government instituted such reforms much earlier.”

The EcoWaste Coalition is a national network of more than 150 public interest groups pursuing sustainable and just solutions to waste, climate change and chemical issues towards the envisioned Zero Waste 2020 goal.