Quezon City. In commemoration of the 13th year of the dreadful Payatas dumpsite tragedy that buried alive and killed hundreds of people, the EcoWaste Coalition, a waste and pollution watchdog, pressed for stricter implementation of R.A. 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000, specifically calling on President Benigno Aquino to proclaim his government’s commitment to Zero Waste in his next State of the Nation Address (SONA).
Thirteen years ago, on this day, a 50-foot pile of garbage crashed on the houses and shanties of on-site residents and transient waste pickers at the height of torrential rains brought about by successive typhoons “Ditang” and Edeng,” burying alive and killing over 300 people.
“After all these years, justice remains elusive to the tragedy’s victims and their surviving relatives. The continuing operation of the dumpsite, masquerading as a ‘sanitary’ landfill thirteen years since the disaster, ridicules the death of the victims and derides the indescribable sorrow of their loved ones,” said Commissioner Romeo Hidalgo, NGO Representative, National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC).
The group reiterates their call for the immediate closure of open dumps as specified under R.A. 9003, requiring that all open and controlled dumps should have been closed by February 2004 and February 2006, respectively. The Payatas dumpsite was closed as a result of the tragedy but was reopened again and to this day, it continues to operate as a ‘sanitary’ landfill.
Currently, illegal open and controlled dumpsites continue to exist despite the clear provision of the law prohibiting their operations, to the dismay of eco groups pushing for the closure of these perilous disposal facilities.
As of 2012, data obtained from NSWMC's website enumerate 606 open and 309 controlled dumpsites. In addition, the country has 44 ‘sanitary’ landfills, with 69 more undergoing construction.
Citing studies made by the US Environmental Protection Agency that landfill liners are not fully impermeable, Comm. Hidalgo expressed concern that these dumps and landfills nationwide continue to release toxic fumes and leachate to the environment containing health-damaging infectious pathogens and hazardous chemicals such as dioxins and other persistent organic pollutants.
“We call on President Aquino to highlight the government’s commitment to the genuine implementation of R.A. 9003 in his upcoming SONA, stop the seeming dependence on so-called sanitary landfills and waste- to-energy incinerators as backbone of the country’s waste management strategy and proclaim Zero Waste as the way to go,” said Aileen Lucero, Acting National Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition.
Aside from dumpsite closure, RA 9003 further directs the establishment of material recovery facilities (MRFs), also known as ecology centers, in every barangay or cluster of barangays to promote and support waste prevention and reduction at grassroots level.
In addition, the EcoWaste Coalition reminded the public that waste prevention and reduction starts at home as the group reiterates the need for everyone to consume responsibly, segregate discards at source and to reuse and recycle as much as possible to cut the volume of residual waste for disposal.
“We must do our part to end our wasteful habits and uncaring treatment of the environment, and learn our valuable lessons from the Payatas tragedy and similar events to avoid such deadly incidents from happening again. Remember that as we keep on throwing away garbage, we become contributors to these kinds of disasters,” Lucero added.
On April 19, 2013, an estimated 300,000 metric tons of trash reportedly collapsed from the 5-month inactive portion of the Rizal Provincial Sanitary Landfill that buried and killed four maintenance personnel.
In 2011, two major garbage slides occurred in Baguio City on August 27 at the Irisan dumpsite that killed five people and in Olongapo City on September 27 at Barangay New Cabalan that claimed three lives, the group said.