EcoWaste Coalition Stages Lenten Walk to Press for the Closure of Polluting Dumpsites (Group Backs Ombudsman’s Action vs. Dumpsites, Asks Politicians to Enforce R.A. 9003)

Citizen advocates for chemical safety and zero waste today staged a “Lenten Walk for Mother Earth” to dramatize the adverse impacts of garbage dumping on the ecosystems.

 On Holy Wednesday, members of the EcoWaste Coalition and ‘running priest’ Fr. Robert Reyes, took a solemn walk from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to the Office of the Ombudsman in Quezon City.

            A volunteer carrying a big wooden cross on his shoulders led the walk under the scorching sun, followed by over 80 participants, many of whom donned black veils and held banners and placards with pro-environment messages, including excerpts from Laudato Si of Pope Francis that says:  “The earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth.”

         “The cross symbolizes the suffering of our dear Mother Earth due to the failure of many localities to close, clean up and rehabilitate polluting dumpsites across the country,” said Father Robert Reyes, OFM.

           “The cross also represents our collective hope that ecological stewardship will triumph over the culture of waste and apathy that is defiling and killing God’s creation,” he added.

           “Open dumping goes against Republic Act 9003, the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, burying communities with wastes and poisoning humans and other creatures with harmful chemicals,” noted Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

          “By staging this walk, we proclaim the need to end this daily ‘crucifixion’ of Mother Earth in our throw-away society by closing the dumps and adopting practices that prevent and reduce the generation of trash,” she emphasized.

           “Specifically, we hold this walk to urge the Filipino nation to rally behind the Office of the Ombudsman in its earnest efforts to protect the environment from open dumping by holding erring officials accountable,” she further said.    

             In response, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales assured EcoWaste Coalition officers that “the Environmental Ombudsman team of investigators and prosecutors are working double time to ensure that the complaints filed by the National Solid Waste Management Coalition (NSWMC) are acted upon to protect our ecosystems from the negative impact of illegal dumping activities.”

It will be recalled that last March 11, the Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon and Environmental Ombudsman Gerard A. Mosquera ordered more than 300 local government officials to submit an explanation on the complaints.  The local officials were given a non-extendible period of 30 days to reply and submit their Safe Closure and Rehabilitation Plan (SCRP) that must include a proposal to immediately close open dumpsites.   

This order came at the heels of the filing of 50 complaints by the NSWMC for violation of R.A. No. 9003 last February 10 against 600 local government officials from 13 administrative regions. The law mandated the closure of open and controlled dumpsites from 2004 to 2006. The complaints were signed by NSWMC Commissioner Romeo Hidalgo, a representative of civil society in the commission and a member of EcoWaste Coalition.

             In anticipation of the start of the official campaign period for local elective officials, the EcoWaste Coalition urged aspiring leaders to put zero waste resource management at the center of their electoral platforms.

            “We call upon all candidates for local positions to pay serious attention to the urgency of enforcing R.A. 9003 and building zero waste communities to reduce the volume and toxicity of garbage, save resources, cut back on pollution, create green livelihood, and safeguard the environment and the climate,” Lucero said.

               The NSWMC projects waste generation for 2016 to hit 9,213 tons per day in Metro Manila and 40,087 tons per day nationwide. ###