16 February 2009

Environmentalists Sue San Mateo Officials for Dumping in Watershed

San Mateo, Rizal- Concerned environmentalists and
citizens yesterday went to court to sue San Mateo Mayor Jose Rafael Diaz and Barangay Captain Cecilia Laceste for the illegal dumping in the Marikina watershed that is happening right under their noses.

Plaintiffs led by the EcoWaste Coalition, Buklod Tao, Rev. Fr. Alfred Albor and concerned residents asked the Regional Trial Court of San Mateo, Rizal (one of the "green courts" designated by the Supreme Court) to issue a temporary restraining order to halt the illegal dumping in Barangay Pintong Bukawe that contravenes Republic Act 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act.

Invoking their right to file a “citizen suit” under R. A. 9003, the plaintiffs accuse the defendants of “clear and blatant violation of the law” that prohibits and penalizes open dumping.

The filing of the case coincided with the anniversary of the much-maligned national deadline of closure for open dumps (16 February 2004) and controlled dumps (16 February 2006).

“Mayor Diaz and Barangay Captain Laceste have abused their power and positions and have brazenly defied R.A. 9003. By operating the municipal dump inside the Marikina Watershed, they have put at risk the health, safety and well-being of the residents of Barangay Pintong Bukawe and adjacent communities,” said Atty Armand Mejia, legal counsel of the EcoWaste Coalition.

Mejia described the open dumping in Barangay Pintong Bukawe as “grossly and patently “ violating Sections 37 and 48 of R.A. 9003, which ban the maintenance and operation of open dumps.

The plaintiffs assert that Barangay Pintong Bukawe is an environmentally-critical area as it is inside the Marikina Watershed Reservation. The dump which caters to mixed solid wastes of San Mateo since 2003 is situated along a ravine with a waterway located below.

The plaintiffs asked the court to declare the open dump in Barangay Pintong Bukawe illegal and to order for its permanent closure and subsequent rehabilitation.

"Adding insult to injury, the two officials also allowed the construction of a new waste disposal facility in Barangay Pintong Bukawe," said Mejia.

"Our government officials are sacrificing the health and well-being of the people in the name of profit. The operation of the old landfill brought nothing but pollution, sickness and death to us. We don't want the nightmare to start all over again with the construction of the new landfill," said San Mateo community leader Noli Abinales of Buklod Tao.

Buklod Tao, the EcoWaste Coalition and other groups, including Greenpeace and the Coalition for a Garbage-Free San Mateo, have chided the authorities for allowing the construction of the new San Mateo Landfill in the said barangay in violation of an en banc decision by the Supreme
Court.

In a decision penned by Justice Minita Chico-Nazario, the Supreme Court on 13 December 2005 ordered the permanent closure of the old San Mateo landfill managed by the Metro Manila Development Authority, underscoring the fact that the waste facility “has adversely affected its environs and sources of water should always be protected.”

The landmark decision upheld the ban on the construction and operation of landfills or any waste disposal facility that will detrimentally affect environmentally-critical resources such as aquifers, groundwater reservoirs and watershed areas.

In lieu of polluting dumps and landfills, Buklod Tao and the EcoWaste Coalition are pushing for the enforcement of best practices in people-driven ecological waste management, excluding the wasteful and climate warming open burning and dumping of discards.


For more details, please contact the EcoWaste Coalition Secretariat at 929-0376.

EcoWaste Coalition
Unit 320, Eagle Court Condominium, Matalino St.
Quezon City, Philippines
+63 2 9290376
ecowastecoalition@yahoo.com

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