CITY OF SAN FERNANDO -- Members of the City Council will file a resolution canceling an agreement with a British waste management firm.

Committee on Environmental Protection Chairman Jimmy Lazatin on Tuesday said they will file a resolution to cancel the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) forged by the previous administration with British firm Rethman on solid waste management.

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The decision was reached during the first and last public hearing at Heroes Hall attended by various stakeholders, including non-government groups, barangay officials, educators, multi-sectoral governance representatives and the business sector led by the Pampanga Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Inc.

Lazatin, together with Vice Mayor Edwin Santiago, Ways and Means Committee Councilor Alex Patio, City Administrator Ferdinand Caylao and city engineers heard all sides of the issue from the various sectors, which would file their respective resolutions that will lead to the cancellation of the agreement.

Disadvantageous

Lazatin told Sun.Star Pampanga that the MOA signed by Rethman and its local counterparts with the previous administration was disadvantageous to the constituents of the city, especially the poorest of the poor.

"Under the agreement on solid waste management which they signed, households would have to pay P40 per day or for business establishments, about P1,000 for garbage collection. Then the city would have to meet a quota in terms of volume in tons and if we do not meet that, the city would have to pay for the balance," Lazatin said.

He said the contract runs up to some P350 million per year and many of the provisions are contrary to the welfare of the city's constituents.

"Our poorest of the poor cannot even send their children to school and then they would be asked to pay that much for garbage collection. Upon our study, we found that there are many provisions in the contract that are very favorable to the firm but not for the city when the city's welfare should be foremost. Besides, we discovered no public consultation or hearing was done on this that is why we immediately conducted this public hearing and consulted our stakeholders. It should have been done with due process before being signed," he said.

He said that now mulling for its cancellation, the City Council would focus on other options like the Biosphere project, but would proceed with the "divorce" with Rethman even if other options are still being worked on.

"This is very alarming. Garbage is a national problem but we should not forget about the side of our constituents. That is why the City Council and the Committee on Environment vow our all-out efforts in solving this without having to disadvantage our constituents," Lazatin said.

Caylao corroborated Lazatin's pronouncements and said the "annulment" or "divorce" from the contract will be the best solution to see to the welfare of the Fernandinos while the city moves full speed in finding better alternatives on solid waste management.

Tricked?

Patio said the officials of the City Government during the past administration may have been "tricked" into signing the MOA.

"From all its looks and aspects, you will find that it was a trick. It is not in favor of the city but of personal interests. The legislative should always be very careful of signing agreements because it is the welfare of our stakeholders at hand. We are just being sure of our moves. Para ka lang ikinasal dito at sa pagwawalang bisa nito ay dapat sundin ang proseso," Patio told Sun.Star Pampanga.

Santiago agreed with Patio, and said, "Hindi po kasi puwedeng basta ganoon na lang ang proseso. The legislative should always be on guard with such tricky agreements. Kaya nga, in this administration, the City Council has been strictly scrutinizing every resolution, ordinance and agreement. Dapat pabor sa taong bayan at hindi sa interes ng ilan lamang. We will not be the region's top City Council if we do not do that."

Unconsummated 'marriage'

Narrating how the contract progressed then as he personally saw it, Mayor Oscar Rodriguez said the contract did not pass through the proper processes.

"What I know is the former mayor then just had it signed by the councilors one by one. Pinuntahan niya ng isa-isa at saka pinapirma. It should have been during the session. Eh malapit na kasi ang election noon. That is why, as a lawyer, I could readily see the legal impediments. Sa atin, hindi puwede ang ganyan," Rodriguez told Sun.Star Pampanga.

"It is really disadvantageous. So I asked the City Council to study it closely because during our past meetings with the firm, we discovered na kami pala ang maglo-loan at hindi sila gaya ng kanilang sinabi. The British officials of the firm told me that. The city literally has to pay for everything including tipping fees and collection. And how about our poorest of the poor who cannot even afford to give decent education to their children? Saan sila kukuha ng pambayad kung natuloy ito?" he said.

"Sa ating pamamahala, we see to the benefit of our constituents. Hindi puwedeng one-sided kagaya ng agreement na ito. That is why I told them, 'Well, kasal nga tayo through this agreement but hindi kami sumiping sa inyo.' It's a marriage unconsummated," Rodriguez concluded.

DENR, UNDP approved

However, according to former Mayor Reynaldo Aquino, the Rethman MOA passed through all the legal and proper processes.

In a phone interview with Aquino Wednesday afternoon, he said, "That is not the case. The MOA was signed formally by the City Council and not one by one outside of the session. Even the contract signing with Rethman was witnessed by dignitaries and officials."

Aquino cited the Ambassador of Germany and the then Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Elisea Gozun witnessed the signing.

As to the alleged disadvantageous aspect of the solid waste management program proposed by Rethman, Aquino said that the DENR and consultants from the United Nations Development Program, which took a close look at the contract price and all its aspects, approved it.

"It is not one-sided as they say. Everything was done according to the Law and our stakeholders then were also consulted. With what they are saying that I had it signed outside of the City Council's session, it is not true. That is not my style," Aquino told Sun.Star Pampanga. (JTD)