Secretary Lito Atienza's failure to honor his promise of taking legal action against local government officials who continue to defy the implementation of the Ecological Solid Waste Management Law or Republic Act 9003 after his six month ultimatum cast doubts on the sincerity of the DENR in enforcing the law.
Ended last November 2008, the Secretary uttered the ultimatum as a warning to all local government officials to comply immediately to the law by closing down their hazardous dumps or else face legal battle with his department.
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. RA 9003 mandates the phase out of all open dumps by February 2004 and all controlled dumpsites by February 2006.
Worse, Atienza is promoting false solutions to garbage woes by advocating constructions of more landfills. His proposed P2.8 billion in grants to be allocated by the national government to local officials to convert dumps to landfills will undermine the efforts of communities towards zero waste solutions.
Sanitary landfills are hazardous facilities, contaminating the ground and water of leachate and aggravating climate change through the continuous release of methane gas. It is very expensive and for proponent to recover its capital, it needs more production and dumping of solid waste. Landfills will end up as financial burdens to host communities.
Instead of subsidizing false solutions, Atienza should support local government officials by capacitating barangays and communities to work towards ecological solid waste management. Educational seminars and incentives can help gain the support to practice of waste minimization, segregation at source, maximizing natural resources through composting, reuse and recycling and development of markets for recyclables. Coupled with mandating industry to practice clean production and use renewable resources, genuine garbage solutions could be achieved.
For years, we practiced the collect-dump system and relied on dirty technologies such as dumps and landfills. Why not push for a community-based, local and participatory solution to garbage woes, this time?
Unit 320, Eagle Court Condominium, Matalino Street, Quezon City