The strong stance was uttered by Atienza in a public forum last May 5, 2008. The Secretary dared local government officials who continue to defy the law by operating and maintaining dumps that they will be brought to court by his very own agency.
“The continuous existence of dumpsites is a blatant violation of our environmental laws and a sign of weakness of our implementors. Secretary Atienza made a very strong pronouncement and he is obliged as a public servant to fulfill his promise,” said Ochie Tolentino of the Cavite Green Coalition and a member of the Task Force Dumps/Landfills of the EcoWaste Coaliton.
The Ecological Solid Waste Management Act or Republic Act 9003 orders the closure of all open dumps in 2004 and closed dumps in 2006. Yet in the data of the National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC), there are 826 existing open dumps and 359 controlled dumps in the country.
“Dumps are polluting facilities and will cause ground, air and water contamination. It is also a major source of methane which worsens global warming. As the Environment Secretary, Atienza has the power to close down all polluting facilities. What it takes is the will to do it. We are watching Mister Secretary,” said Tolentino.
The EcoWaste Coaliton believes that a successful ecological solid waste management lies in community education and implementation of proactive waste prevention, reduction, segregation at source, recycling and composting and through the establishment of people-driven ecology centers or materials recovery facilities (MRFs). The Coalition opposes financially and environmentally costly “sanitary” landfills or “waste-to-energy” incinerators.
The EcoWaste Coalition further called on Sec. Atienza and local government executives to ensure alternative livelihood for the informal recyclers such as the waste pickers who undertake the very dirty and hazardous job of foraging through the dumps for recyclable materials that can be sold.
“Our local government units should recognize the rights of the waste pickers and involve them in putting our waste management systems in order. They should be the first priority in the hiring of needed workers in the operation of a true and ecological waste management system, so as to afford them with humane employment that will provide them with basic health and social security benefits,” the EcoWaste Coalition stated.
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