03 October 2011

DENR Urged to Revoke Obando Landfill ECC amid Flooding

An environmental watchdog wasted no time asking the authorities to revoke the environmental compliance certificate (ECC) issued for a so-called “sanitary” landfill project in Obando, Bulacan following the massive flood that submerged the coastal fishing town.

The EcoWaste Coalition urged Environment Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje to cancel the ECC issued by Mrs. Lorimelyn E. Claudio, Regional Director for Environment (Region III), to a landfill project by EcoShield Development Corporation after typhoons Pedring and Quiel inundated low-lying towns in the province of Bulacan, including Obando.

EcoShield is headed by businessman and former Ambassador Antonio L. Cabangon Chua, according to the ECC.

Last September 18, Bishop Jose Oliveros of Malolos reiterated the Church opposition to the landfill in a homily. “The environment is a gift from God. We should be responsible in caring for it. We should not destroy it. Instead of polluting, we should love the land and care for it because life comes from the environment,” the bishop said.

Various protesters, including citizens’ groups, religious associations, an environmental health coalition and a fisherfolk alliance, had earlier asked Secretary Paje to halt the construction of the 44-hectar landfill in Barangay Salambao in Obando, citing the proximity of the waste disposal facility to Obando River and Manila Bay.

Protesters maintain that the Obando landfill project is illegal and will harm the health of Obando River and its people, worsen the decades-old flooding problem in the town, contribute to the continued deterioration of Manila Bay and destroy the livelihood of tens of thousands of people who depend on whatever is left now of the marine resources from the river and the bay, an online citizens’ petition against the said facility explained.

“The unprecedented flood that engulfed Obando is an explicit proof of how environmentally-critical the entire town is and how wrong it is to construct a landfill in such a location that is obviously at risk,” said Roy Alvarez, President, EcoWaste Coalition.

“We hope that Secretary Paje will finally get this message from the onslaught of typhoons Pedring and Quiel in Bulacan: Obando is a flood-prone municipality and allowing a landfill to rise in the area would be a big mistake,” he said.

“The threat of extreme weather disturbances due to climate change is real and constructing a landfill in a flood disaster hotspot like Obando will only make the situation worse,” Alvarez warned.

“We therefore appeal urge to Secretary Paje and former Ambassador Cabangon Chua of EcoShield to read the signs of the times and drop the unpopular project for the common good,” he pleaded.

Groups opposed to the project say that the proposed landfill is in itself a fishpond at the intersection of the Obando-Muzon Rivers and Manila Bay, an area that has provided fishermen from Obando, the neighboring cities of Malabon and Navotas and the province of Cavite with plentiful aquatic resources.

The Salambao landfill project has attracted broad opposition from concerned groups and individuals for many reasons such as:

1. The project goes against the basic provisions of Republic Act 9003, the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act. Building a landfill on Barangay Salambao’s reclaimed waters from dredged silt violates Section 40, especially items (d) and (e) of R.A. 9003, which state that “the site must be chosen with regard for the sensitivities of the community’s residents,” and that "the landfill's operation will not detrimentally affect environmentally sensitive resources."

2. The project will aggravate Obando’s decades-long struggle against floods. The landfill will worsen this problem by further narrowing the waterway from upstream starting in the Rizal uplands, down to San Jose Del Monte, Caloocan, Valenzuela, Sta. Maria, Marilao, and Meycauayan until it reaches Obando, before emptying into the Manila Bay --- with the water carrying tons of garbage from all the sources along the way.

3. The project will generate toxic “ juice” from the dumped garbage and exacerbate water pollution. The leachate will leak into the waters, poison the rivers and invade domestic water sources. This toxic combination of trash and floods will bring diseases and breed pests like flies, roaches and rats.

4. The project perpetuates a clear case of environmental injustice. It will be grossly unjust to the residents of a poor, small, and perennially submerged town to be the dumping ground of garbage from Metro Manila and other areas.

The opposing groups urge Metro Manila’s local government units to follow the spirit and intent of R.A. 9003 by carrying out barangay-level waste prevention and reduction or Zero Waste programs, including source separation, reusing, recycling and composting.

-end-

References:

R.A. 9003, Ecological Solid Waste Management Act:
http://www.chanrobles.com/republicactno9003.htm

Citizens’ petition:
https://www.change.org/petitions/tell-the-mayor-and-governor-to-stop-the-obando-sanitary-landfill-project

Statement of Bishop Jose Oliveros:
http://www.ucanews.com/2011/09/20/parishioners-protest-dump-site/

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