A team from the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is set to arrive this March 21, 2021 to implement the closure of open dumpsites still illegally operating in several municipalities of Catanduanes, including the capital town of Virac.
According to an official source, the final notice served on the Virac local government became effective on March 9 but the closure of the dumpsite straddling the border of Magnesia and Casoocan will officially take effect upon the EMB team which will serve a Notice of Violation on the LGU and other towns still operating open dumpsites.
Failure to comply with the closure order will force the DENR-EMB to file appropriate administrative complaints against local chief executives before the Ombudsman.
So far, six mayors in the Bicol region have been hailed before the graft court for inaction on illegal dumpsites by the LGUs: Camalig, Daraga, Guinobatan, Polangui, Tabaco City and Tiwi, all in Albay province.
The campaign to close the dumpsites by the end of March has been ordered by DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu, who has prioritized solid waste management as he noted that Republic Act 9003 (Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000) was neither promptly nor fully implemented despite the country’s increasing waste generation.
Aside from closing open dumps, Cimatu said DENR will help further promote the development of sanitary landfills nationwide, practice of waste segregation at home and improvement of garbage collection.
Based on latest data, Baras and Bato towns will most likely avoid a date with the Ombudsman as both towns have already established their respective Temporary Residual Containment Area (TRCA) where segregated waste is supposed to be stored while awaiting construction of a proper sanitary landfill.
On the other hand, the San Andres LGU already has its own municipal eco-park where the processing of segregated waste is allegedly being done.
To be able to operate a TRCA, the local government concerned must have already implemented waste segregation at source in the barangays.
In the capital town, the previous administration under Mayor Samuel Laynes successfully oversaw the closure of the old open dumpsite at Magnesia and purchased a nearby lot inside Casoocan to serve as landfill.
However, following Laynes’ defeat in 2019, the proposed landfill was instead utilized as an open dumpsite by the new administration of Mayor Sinforoso Sarmiento Jr.
In a recent meeting of the Municipal Solid Waste Management Council chaired by the local chief executive, the Municipal Environment and Natural Resources Officer-designate reportedly did not make clear what the LGU intends to do with the tons of garbage its trucks collect on a daily basis once the Casoocan dumpsite is closed.
While the MENRO is reportedly establishing a TRCA at the dumpsite, it will most likely accommodate unsorted solid waste as all or most barangay residents do not practice segregation at source.
The closure of the dumpsite would also limit the MENRO’s garbage collection to barangays within the poblacion, with the many barangays outside the poblacion to dispose of their own trash.
Since mid-2019, the LGU has expanded its garbage collection to barangays far from the poblacion, a move that came under scrutiny from the council during its first meeting just recently.
Under RA 9003, implementation of waste segregation is supposed to reduce collection by LGUs to only residual waste.
On the other hand, the council’s Technical Working Group (TWG) is reportedly scouting for a new site for the proposed sanitary landfill but it would likely fail considering the DENR’s Landfill Site Identification and Screening Criteria.
In the criteria’s geologic condition requirements, LGUs selecting landfill sites are told to avoid areas with carbonate rocks (limestone) or other porous rock formations.
As Virac’s underlying bedrock is limestone, any site within the town would not comply with the guidelines, the source stated.
The town’s 10-year Solid Waste Management Plan which was filed with the National Solid Waste Management Commission was returned for updating and rectification of some data.
According to the EMB, all SWMPs of the other Catanduanes towns are still undergoing evaluation, except for Pandan which has yet to submit its own plan.
Only Virac received from the government SWM equipment such as a shredder-composter and plastic molder but the equipment at an LGU-owned lot at San Isidro Village are now deteriorated beyond repair after it was not properly utilized.