(UPDATED) The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)-Central Visayas ordered the Cebu City Government to stop dumping garbage in a “transfer station” in the South Road Properties starting today, December 21.
Engineer William Cuñado, director of the DENR’s Environmental Management Bureau, issued a cease-and-desist order after finding out that, among others, City Hall operated the “transfer station” without an environmental compliance certificate (ECC).
Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña said he has no choice but to defy the order.
“Where will I put the garbage? Physically we don’t have the ability to deliver it outside,” he said.
He said it might take time for the City to find a location where Cebu City can send all its garbage, since all transactions should be above-board and, among others, go through a public bidding.
“At the moment, we have no choice but to leave what we collect in the existing transfer station at the edge of the SRP. This will not be permanent. We will only use it until we have a suitable permanent location and then everything will be transferred there,” Osmeña said.
Some of Cebu City’s 80 barangays began sending their trash to the SRP lot identified by City Hall last Saturday. That was two days after the Court of Appeals ordered the closure of Cebu City’s Inayawan dumpsite.
In an interview yesterday, Cuñado said he issued the cease-and-desist order after a team of inspectors he organized found that the temporary transfer station established was marred by several violations.
He summoned Mayor Osmeña and other local officials to a technical conference on Friday.
Cuñado said that City could pay as much as P50,000 per violation.
Based on the report submitted by EMB 7 lawyer Unalee Monares, the location where the City sent its waste, starting last Saturday, cannot qualify as a “transfer station.” What the City is doing is open dumping, which violates Republic Act 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Law.
“Furthermore, the operation of the open dumpsite presents grave and irreparable damage to the environment,” the report stated.
Cuñado also recommended endorsing the matter to the National Solid Waste Management Commission, for the immediate closure of both the Inayawan dumpsite and the “transfer station” established in the SRP.
“We can’t even consider it as a transfer station because based on the law, a transfer station can only keep garbage for 24 hours. Garbage dumped there already exceeded more than a day,” Cuñado added.
For his part, Mayor Osmeña said that City Hall can’t stop collecting garbage. He assured residents that he will not compromise their health by not collecting trash.
“Now, the EMB has issued a certificate of non-compliance on the new transfer stations, and of course the City will exert all effort to comply. However, let me clearly state my policy direction: Under no circumstance will your City Government be intimidated into pursuing an unlawful situation, specifically an act of graft. There is clearly politics behind this. Someone is trying to make money,” he said.
Voting 9-8, the City Council also expressed yesterday their “vehement opposition” to the use of a transfer station in the SRP.
It was Councilor Joel Garganera who made the motion after a privilege speech.
Members of the majority bloc, including Vice Mayor Edgardo Labella who broke the tie, supported the motion while members of the minority bloc opposed it.
Garganera said that although the mayor said the facility will be temporary, a transfer station, under the law, can only store solid waste for 24 hours.
“Thus, it is not within the scope of the definition of a transfer station if they plan to temporarily store the garbage for 10 days or more. Considering that they have not identified a final disposal site, it all boils down to the question, how temporary is temporary?” Garganera said.
Garganera also asked that a copy of his privilege speech be sent to the DENR regional office, Secretary Gina Lopez and the Office of the President through Presidential Assistant for the Visayas Michael Dino.
Interviewed separately, Atty. Monares of the EMB legal division said that last Dec. 19, the EMB 7 sent a team to investigate media reports that the City Government dumped solid waste in a lot in the SRP.
The Court of Appeals had ordered EMB 7 to conduct daily monitoring on the City Government’s compliance with the order to close the Inayawan landfill, as well as rehabilitate it.
Monares added that before the team went to the landfill, they dropped by SRP and witnessed the actual illegal dumping of garbage by a dump truck.
He said that in 20 minutes, the team saw five more dump trucks arrive, also carrying solid waste for dumping.
Under Republic Act 9003, the commission has the power to file criminal, administrative and civil cases against violators before the Office of the Ombudsman.
He said that local government units violating the law have a bigger liability and bigger penalties, considering that they are tasked primarily to enforce RA 9003.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on December 21, 2016.
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