WHEN the environment department ordered a landfill operator in Aloguinsan town to stop receiving garbage, it wasn’t because the facility had failed to meet its standards. It had.

But the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) in Central Visayas explained, in its order dated Jan. 20, 2017, that the facility owned by the mayor’s son, Rafael Moreno, should have waited for its environmental compliance certificate (ECC) before it began accepting Cebu City’s garbage last Jan. 4.

Cebu City, the busiest and most populated of Cebu’s cities and towns, needs a clearer plan for managing its waste. That much is obvious. But its problem probably bedevils other local government units (LGUs) in Cebu.

How many cities and towns in Cebu have sanitary landfills that meet the EMB’s standards? We called the agency yesterday afternoon, but were told to call back again because the information “was still being verified.”

Are these landfills enough, or do Cebu’s cities and towns have to start building more of these facilities? What are our local officials’ plans to encourage more private sector players to develop these landfills?

In 2010, the latest data available online, only five cities and towns in Central Visayas had the solid waste management boards they were required to organize under Republic Act 9003. On the space for the total number of such boards in Region 7 appeared these words: “No data.”

The impression we’re getting so far is that data on solid waste management in Cebu and region remain scarce. For instance, among the targets under the National Solid Waste Management Strategy 2012-2016, 50 percent of all solid waste in 2012 should have been kept from reaching landfills, meaning these should have been reused, recycled or composted and used or sold as fertilizers. Was this met?

As part of the decentralization program that began in 1992, LGUs were given the key role in managing solid waste under the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act (Republic Act 2003). Here’s the thing: who keeps constituents informed about how well LGUs are doing at this task? Households have some idea of how well the garbage collection service gets done, but most are in the dark on the state of their city or town’s solid waste management plan.

Most don’t even know where they can sell recyclables they’ve segregated from the rest of their trash. On that note, has the Department of Trade and Industry completed an inventory of the market for the purchase and processing of recyclables? The law required it to identify “the potential steps necessary to expand these markets.” Has that information been prepared and spread to all households?

Cebu City’s challenges in managing its solid waste have also created the opportunity for all other LGUs to take stock of their own plans and efforts. It’s an opportunity we can’t afford to waste.