CEBU City Mayor Tomas Osmeña is willing to sit down with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to discuss a timetable for the closure of the Inayawan landfill.
He told the Court of Appeals (CA) on Monday, October 24, that the City Government will shut down the landfill on January 1, 2017.
Osmeña, however, said he doesn’t want Councilor Joel Garganera to be present during the conference.
The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) wanted the two parties involved in the petition for Writ of Kalikasan that Garganera had filed to meet and agree on when the landfill will be closed.
The compromise agreement on the closure date is one of the two options that the CA mentioned after the second hearing of the petition Monday.
The CA also gave both parties 15 days after Monday's hearing to submit their position papers before the court will rule on the petition, in case no compromise agreement develops.
Garganera said he will just let his lawyers file the petition paper.
He wants the Temporary Environmental Protection Order (Tepo) to be issued immediately to stop the dumping of garbage in the landfill.
But Mayor Osmeña argued that City can’t immediately close the landfill since official need to determine first where to dump the waste and source out funds to pay for it.
Osmeña said if City will dump again in the private landfill in Consolacion, it will have to spend almost P1 million a day to dump an estimated 600 tons of garbage collected in the city every day.
Since City also doesn’t have enough trucks to go to the private landfill, Osmeña said that City Hall will be forced to get a hauler who will transport its garbage to Consolacion.
City Hall is estimated to spend P1,500 per ton each time it dumps its garbage in Consolacion, which will cover the tipping fee and the hauler’s fee.
In its previous transaction, City Hall paid P700 per ton each time it dumped its garbage in the private landfill.
“If we have to go to Consolacion and we don’t have the capability, we will have to hire a private hauler,” Osmeña said.
City Hall has 37 trucks that are operational, 13 that are under repair, and four that are beyond repair.
“It looks like they have a hidden agenda, they want to give favors to a landfill operator,” Osmeña said.
Osmeña also asked the court for enough time before the closure since it needs more funds to pay for garbage disposal.
The mayor said he will work on a P600-million allocation for the rehabilitation and closure plan for the landfill, which he included in the 2017 proposed annual budget.
“We proposed P600 million for the landfill. We have to realign it, whatever we have to do, at least we have P600 million. We will figure it out. But at least a lot of it will go to rehabilitation of the landfill,” he said.
The annual budget will still have to go through the City Council, though, for approval.
This is part of what the mayor told the appeals court’s 19th Division, based in Cebu, Monday: “Is it possible to stop (the dumping of garbage)? Yes. But I need to look for money and bid out (to interested firms). I cannot close it (landfill) now.”
Garganera filed the case last September 23 against Osmeña; Engr. William Cunado, officer-in-charge of the Environmental Management Bureau-Central Visayas; and Emma Melana, chief of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)-Central Visayas.
He said he wanted to “stop (a) looming environmental catastrophe.”
Garganera’s lawyer, Jasper Lucero, revealed that owners of the private landfill in Consolacion town certified that they are willing to renegotiate with the City Government.
Lucero also presented during the hearing Engr. Henry Saludar of the Department of Health-Central Visayas, who testified about the results of their office’s assessment of the landfill.
Saludar said that the DOH recommended the closure of the landfill after finding several violations.
Cheryl Angeline Roque-Javier, counsel for DENR-Central Visayas, also clarified that Environment Secretary Gina Lopez’s order last Thursday to close the landfill was a reiteration of the national government’s call.
Javier also submitted the locations of five of 11 dumpsites in Cebu that are operational.
Lawyer and environmentalist Benjamin Cabrido, who was presented during the hearing as a resource person, suggested that the City open a “transitory landfill.”
He also said that those who violate environmental laws, such as not segregating their garbage, should be ordered to render community services in the Inayawan landfill.
Councilor Garganera said the contesting parties have agreed to close the landfill, and it’s only a “matter of time.”
Garganera said that about 2,000 people have signed a petition for the closure of the landfill.
“Why prolong their agony? It is immediate and the closure has to be now,” the councilor said during the hearing.
Justice Gabriel Ingles pointed out that there are two ground for a Tepo to be issued: first, is if there is irreparable injury on the part of the petitioner that needs to be protected; and second, whether there is extreme urgency in the matter.
“We have to protect the environment and people and that is the immediate concern that needs to be immediately addressed,” said Ingles.
The Writ of Kalikasan is a legal remedy to protect one’s constitutional right to a healthy environment. The 15.4-hectare landfill in Inayawan was reopened last June, roughly 17 months after former mayor Michael Rama shut it down in January 2015.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on October 25, 2016.
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