San Mateo, Rizal. As the country observes Disaster Awareness Month this July, eco-groups Buklod Tao and the EcoWaste Coalition pressed the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to immediately stop all land conversion and waste disposal activities within the Marikina Watershed.
“The massive land conversion of the Marikina Watershed and the mountains of Rizal is putting families in danger, especially those living near riverbanks and mountain slopes,” warned Noli Abinales of Buklod Tao “As the country is in the brink of more climatic disasters due to global warming, we are appealing to the DENR to act quickly and stop the further destruction of the environment,” Abinales added.
Buklod Tao, a community-based organization based in San Mateo, Rizal, asked Secretary Atienza to strengthen environmental management by integrating disaster prevention to enhance the protection of citizens living in high risk disaster areas like San Mateo.
A study conducted by the National Institute for Geological Studies of the University of the Philippines in 2000 reveals that the surrounding mountains of San Mateo are classified as Zone 1 or high risk for landslides and “mass wasting”.
The environmental constraint map of San Mateo’s comprehensive land use plan classifies 13 of the town’s 15 barangays as prone to flooding.
Buklod Tao complains that the mountains of Rizal have been leveled for years by powerful corporations engaged in housing projects and quarry operations.
“These corporations should be held liable for their environmental crimes as they forced out legal tenants and farming communities out of their lands, killed waterways, covered rivers with soil and boulders and cut down hundreds of trees for the sake of profit,” lamented Abinales.
For his part, Rei Panaligan of the EcoWaste Coalition assailed the construction of a new “sanitary” landfill in San Mateo that could contaminate the water supply with leachate, the toxic “garbage juice” which forms within waste materials.
“The construction of the engineered dumpsite is an added environmental risk for San Mateo, which is already badly impacted by unrestrained housing and quarrying operations. We’re afraid that the leachate will ooze into the soil and into the groundwater,” Panaligan said.
“Aside from leachate migration, we are concerned about methane pollution and its effect to the climate crisis,” he added.
The Buklod Tao and EcoWaste Coalition are jointly urging the national and local authorities to make the protection of the Marikina Watershed from destructive and polluting activities a top priority.