Tabije: The people's health is paramount-A A +A
Sunday, July 8, 2012
LAST week, I attended the City Council session on invitation as the water expert of Barangay Dumoy in relation to the application for a memorial park located in Baliok, Dumoy. The barangay and the residents of the nearby Dacoville Subdivision were objecting to the application on the grounds that the proposed cemetery is on top of the Dumoy aquifer which is the main potable water supply of Davao City.
I accepted the invitation on the condition that I was going to testify not necessarily to lawyer for the oppositors but to objectively assess the situation and present my opinion as a hydrologist.
Unfortunately, out of the four technical experts invited to that session, only the first one, a technical staffer from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, was able to speak. After her long testimony and interpellation, the councilors decided right there and then to put the matter into a vote. They apologized to us the other invited experts, explaining that after so many weeks of hearings and testimonies from many technical experts, they already enough information to make an informed decision.
Anyway, the bottom line is that the council disapproved the proposed project. If I would have been called to testify, I would have recommended the same decision on several grounds, namely:
1. The Davao City Water Code is very clear that no cemetery can be constructed in a principal aquifer (which made me wonder why the project was even considered and deliberated for a long time).
2. Even if DCWD has certified that the water table in the proposed cemetery source is more than 4.5 meters from the natural ground, which is the minimum depth allowable by HLURB for cemeteries, the reality is that in the nearby Dacoville Subdivision, there are open dug wells whose water tables are only 2-4 meters from the natural ground. Too close for comfort, as far as I'm concerned.
3. Studies done in Portugal, Brazil, UK and Brazil have shown that cemeteries have the potential to contaminate water tables, even if the coffins were placed in concrete boxes. Furthermore, one study in a landfill in UK showed that leachates—liquids that move through landfills-have percolated more that 20 meters from the ground after several years.
4. When in doubt on the safety of a proposed project, always decide in favor of playing it safe. Especially if the effect of a wrong decision is endangering the health of people. In this case, to play it safe is to disallow the cemetery over Davao's main aquifer.
Congratulations to the Davao City Council for coming up with the right decision.
As I was waiting for my turn to speak, I was just observing the council proceedings and I noticed that some of the ways that the councilors were conducting the formal proceedings were not in consonance with the globally-practiced Robert’ Rules of Order.
Let me try to replay a certain part of the proceedings (not in toto, though)
Councilor 1: "Mr. President, I move for the approval of the application."
Councilor 2: "I second the motion."
Presiding officer: "It has been moved and seconded that the application be approved. Any comments or objection?"
Councilor 3: "Mr. President, I move for the division of the house."
Then the presiding officer moves to divide the house.
What's wrong with the above procedure?
First, there can only be one motion on the floor at any one time. A second motion (in this example, the division of the house) cannot be taken up until the 1st motion is fully acted upon--approved or disapproved or deferred.
Second, the only time a division of the house is done is when there is an objection to a motion. If there is none, then the motion is approved. In the above-described proceeding, there was no official statement of objection. Councilor 3 should have said something like, "I object to the motion," and that would have given the signal to the presiding officer to divide the house (without the need for a motion to divide the house).
Engr. Tabije is an International Consultant whose clients include the UN, WB, EC, ADB and JICA. Email comments to email@example.com.
Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on July 09, 2012.