QUEZON CITY - Residents and ecogroups reiterate their call for the local government of Quezon City to implement the ecowaste management law by closing down the illegal Payatas dumpsite as communities commemorate the ninth year of the garbage slide disaster that buried and killed a still undetermined number of people.
"Every year, they keep on promising us that they will close the Payatas dump but they have not kept their promise," said Nita Panoy, a member of Bangon Kalikasan.
Aling Nita and her family lived beside the Payatas dump for more than twenty years and survived the horrific July 10 garbage disaster that buried and killed an estimate of more than thousand residents and transients and only 300 bodies were retrieved.
"We are appealing to Mayor Sonny Belmonte to please close the Payatas dump. Instead of a toxic environment, he should give us proper housing, health care and clean and alternative livelihood,” said Panoy.
The Payatas dump receives garbage from Quezon City. It is one of the biggest dumpsites in the country. Under the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act or Republic Act 9003, the Payatas dump should have been closed since 2006.
"Instead of closing the dump as mandated, the Quezon City government is even expanding the dumpsite. They are again dumping mixed waste on the same garbage hill that collapsed nine years ago. Communities below the dump again fear for their safety especially now that we are enduring harsh rains and typhoons," said Panoy.
Panoy said that they witnessed the demolition of hundreds of houses around the dump to clear the area for expansion of the dumpsite.
According to the EcoWaste Coalition, Payatas dump releases huge amounts of methane and other toxic emissions to the environment that further aggravate the already worsening climate and relentlessly prey on the health of the people, even those in other communities beyond Payatas.
Children and pregnant women living around the dump are vulnerable to the toxic fumes that trigger and cause the development of respiratory complications, hormone disruption and other ailments.
"The communities around Payatas have suffered enough. Let us not wait for another disaster,” said Rei Panaligan of the EcoWaste Coalition.
A study of the Asian Development Bank in 2004 says that Payatas dump releases leachate into the groundwater and river system an amount of 2 liters per second or 63 million liters per year. Also, Greenpeace in a 1999 study found out that the leachate or "garbage juice" from the Payatas dump contains elevated levels of heavy metals such as lead, chromium, copper, and zinc.
Payatas dump is adjacent to La Mesa Watershed, a drinking source of Metro Manila, and tributaries of Marikina River that flow directly to the Laguna Lake.
The national government and private entities are now undertaking various housing projects around the dump. Ecogroups believe that it is imperative to close the dump to ensure the safety and health of the people and the protection of the environment.