REVERSED PUNCH: Missing out on the essence of R.A. 9003

The more I look at it the more I am convinced that the implementers of the Ecological Solid Waste Act (R. A. 9003) in this city or elsewhere either do not understand what the law is all about or are just incapable of thinking out of the box.

The mandate of the this law is clear enough: “No open dump sites shall be established and operated, nor any practice or disposal of solid waste by any person, including local governments, which constitutes the use of open dumps for solid wastes, be allowed after the effectivity of this Act, every local government shall convert its open dumps to controlled dumps.”

For local government units to manage their wastes, Section 10 of the law is self-explanatory: “The LGUs (city or the municipality) shall be responsible for the implementation and enforcement of the law with segregation and collection of solid wastes to be done in the barangay level.”

In essence, the law is saying:   “The city or the municipality shall provide the wherewithal or the support for the barangays to implement segregation at source, recycling, re-use and composting.”  This much could be gleaned from the law’s implementing rules and regulations. The law also opened the door to “best practices” for the barangays to implement as they saw fit.

But since its passage in 2002, no LGU to my mind has been able to comply faithfully with the law, as Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon Gerard Mosquera himself lamented last year. Instead, to a unit without exemption, each LGU that professed compliance to the law automatically pointed to the existence of an environmental sanitary landfill as proof of the pudding.

Like Igacos, Davao City has its ESL. Built in 2010, its existing ESL came at the cost of more P600M with another P30 Million spent for the land acquisition. It was billed an ultra-modern facility and it was supposed to last for 10 years.

Yet as matters stand today, this facility may have already outlived its purpose.  At a press conference at the SM Lanang on Friday, Engr. Arnulfo Alvarez of the Environmental Management Bureau admitted that the facility has degenerated for all intents and purposes into an open dump.

He also confirmed reports that leachate emanating from the dumpsite has been flowing into the Matina Pangi river, turning the color of the river brownish at times. He said it was possible that heavy metals, harmful to health, are present in this ‘discharge’ but is not sure about it.

What went wrong? The obvious, of course stands out. Instead of recyclables (as was the intent of the law), mixed wastes have been unloaded continually at the supposed ESL, turning it into a dumpsite, defeating the purpose, mocking its name.

This meant that segregation at source never took place in the first place. If it did and there are barangays really that segregated their wastes, the segregated wastes became ‘entangled’ with mixed wastes in transit.

In fairness, they know what garbage is all about. That garbage is 60% biodegradable and that the remainder is comprised of recyclables and residuals.

But for all the years they have logged in the service of the Motherland, those at the EMB or the CENRO are not prepared for the challenges of RA 9003.

This law has adverted to good practices several times in coping with biodegradables and it is here that the CENRO or the EMB have not been up to the task.

But again in fairness, composting is a new concept to them, and to most, a new animal all together. Besides, composting is both a science and a discipline whose impact is not immediate at best. But if Mother Nature is to be protected, and if fiscal resources need not go to waste needlessly for lack of imagination, strict segregation at source and composting should be the rule rather than the exemption.  It also definitely much, much cheaper.