IT'S good that Secretary Gina Lopez of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) visited Barangay Inayawan the other day to see for herself the situation in the controversial dump site. Because she was accompanied there by Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña, who has insisted that the facility that has long outlived its lifespan can still be used for two more years, that visit also tested Lopez’s objectivity.
After the initial indecision, which was not surprising because she was still gathering information to understand the full extent of the problem, she ordered the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) 7 to issue the closure order and compel the Cebu City Government to look for an alternative dump site and come up with a rehabilitation plan for the facility.
What Lopez saw was what some sectors and those affected by the foul odor the dump site has been emanating have been describing all along, that it has become a threat to the environment and the health of the people in the surrounding areas. But it was the fact that the rotting dump site is near the sea that hardened Lopez’s resolve.
Osmeña’s reaction was surprisingly level-headed. He told Sun.Star Cebu in a text message: “She (Lopez) initially said OK to rehab but when she heard that it’s near the sea she changed her mind. Due to climate change, she said sea levels may rise 6 to 8 meters. No official order yet but I’m obligated to follow the law.”
If Osmeña stays true to what he told reporters, then the Court of Appeals (CA) will no longer have a problem having both parties in the writ of kalikasan case follow the admonition to settle amicably the dump site issue. The mayor has not responded to the CA admonition but if he follows Lopez’s order then the dump site issue would be settled.
As for the DENR officials in the region, it would be interesting to find out if they provided Lopez with all the facts of the case or intentionally withheld some information. And did they impress upon her the urgency of the case? The answer to those questions will measure their competence in dealing with environmental concerns involving politicians.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on October 22, 2016.
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