I READ in the newspaper that newly-appointed Ombudsman Samuel Martires has withdrawn the suspension orders against nine mayors and other local officials who were earlier found liable for violating RA 9003, or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000.

It will be recalled that the Office of the Ombudsman has indicted the local officials before the Sandiganbayan for allegedly allowing the continued operation of dump sites in their area of jurisdiction in 2015 despite closure orders.

In justifying his move to recall the sanction, Ombudsman Martires said that there is a need for Congress to revisit the law on solid waste management because the law is economically not feasible to be implemented. He added that to close a five-hectare open dumpsite would cost least P13 million, which some Local Government Units (LGU’s) cannot afford, particularly 5th and 6th class municipalities.

Section 37 of RA 9003 states that “No open dumps shall be established and operated, nor any practice or disposal of solid waste by any person, including LGUs, which constitutes the use of open dumps for solid wastes, be allowed after the effectivity of this Acts: Provided, That within three (3) years after the effectivity of this Act, every LGU shall convert its open dumps into controlled dumps, in accordance with the guidelines set in Sec. 41 of this Act: Provided, further, That no controlled dumps shall be allowed five (5) years following the effectivity of this Act.”

Since the law was passed in 2001, it follows that open dumpsites were no longer allowed as early as 2006.Only sanitary landfills (SLF), or other approved means of final disposal facility, are allowed to operate. Many LGU’s however find it difficult to comply because of the huge cost of putting up SLF’s.

To help LGU’s comply with Section 37 of RA 9003, the National Solid Waste Management Commission and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources came up with a simplified and cheaper design of sanitary landfills depending on the volume of waste generated per day.

Under DENR Administrative Order No. 2006-10, SLF’s were categorized into four types. Category 1, for LGUs or cluster of LGU’s with net residual waste of less than or equal to 15 tons per day (TPD). Category 2 for those with greater than 15 TPD but less than or equal to 75 TPD, category 3 for those with greater than 75 TPD but less than or equal to 200 TPD and category 4 for waste greater that 200TPD.

All categories are required to have daily and intermediate soil cover, embankment /cell separation , drainage facility and methane gas venting. Leachate collection and treatment for categories 1, 2 and 3 can be provided at a later stage while a physical and biological treatment of leachate is required for category 4.

To prevent seepage of leachate to the ground, category 1 and 2 SLF requires clay lining only and not a synthetic HDPE plastic liner which is expensive. This is intended for 5th and 6th class LGU’s. Category 3 can either be a clay liner or an equivalent plastic liner. A category 4 SLF requires both clay and plastic lining.

Other LGU’s can simply send their garbage to an SLF near them and just pay the tipping fee instead of constructing their own.