Based on the latest data of the National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC), there are still 712 existing open dumps and 273 controlled dumps in the country. Most of these dumpsites are located near marginalized communities and along environmentally-critical areas such as protected areas, watersheds, foreshore lands, riverbanks etc. The Ecological Solid Waste Management Act or Republic Act 9003 has already banned the use of dumpsites since 2004 for open dumps and 2006 for controlled dump facilities.
Atienza promised that local government officials who will defy his six months ultimatum on dump closure will be brought to court. Six months have passed and not a single case was filed by the Secretary against any public officials.
"A traditional politician, Atienza's promise of safeguarding the welfare of the people and the environment are all empty words. These blatant violations of our environmental laws are signs of weak leadership and governance," said Rei Panaligan of the EcoWaste Coalition.
According to the group, dumps are major contributors of toxic leachate that can contaminate adjacent surface and groundwaters. It is also a major source of methane gas, a very potent greenhouse gas with as high as 25% climatic impact compared to carbon dioxide. Also, maintaining a "collect and dump" management system of solid waste is very expensive and a waste of meager public funds.
"As the environment secretary, Atienza has the power and the responsibility to close down these toxic facilities. No one will follow the law if they saw that the implementors don't even bother or care," said Panaligan.
RA 9003 provides a framework for local government officials on how to properly manage their municipal solid waste. Ecological solutions to garbage woes should be based on decentralizing the solid waste management system to barangay levels, community education, setting up eco-centers and proactive waste prevention, segregation at source, recycling and composting.
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