TAKING a cue from Naga officials, former congressman Antonio Yapha asked environmentalists to include Toledo City in their campaign on the dangers of coal ash.

He said the “rampant” dumping of ash in some barangays deserves the attention of groups like the Global Legal Action Against Climate Change (Glacc).

“Where are the environmentalists? Coal ash is indiscriminately dumped in Barangay Dumlog and Barangay Poblacion, Toledo City. We should be aware that illnesses caused by toxins from coal ash cannot be felt immediately by the people. So, let’s start investigating the effects of coal ash in Toledo City,” Yapha said in a dyDD interview.

"The Manny Pacquiao Blog". Click here for stories and updates on the Filipino boxing champ.

Toledo City Mayor Arlene Zambo said she did not receive any residents’ complaints about coal ash. She is aware of the dumping sites in Barangays Poblacion and Dumlog, and said these are not surrounded by houses.

Still, she said she will ask the City Health Office to check, even as she suspects Yapha of using the issue for political mileage.

“Nganong karon ra man na nga dugay na man ang dumping? (Why did he wait until now, when the dumping began long ago?),” she said. “We should be the first to know. Nganong mag-apil-apil man na siya nga taga-Pinamungajan man siya (Why should he meddle in Toledo, when he’s from Pinamungajan)?”

Interviewed separately, Zambo said she doubts if it’s actually coal ash that a private power company is dumping on a private lot.

“I think it’s just waste materials,” she said.

Lawyer Gloria Estenzo Ramos of Glacc said they welcome the help of citizens in the campaign to get rid of coal ash and other pollutants.

“Local governments should prioritize public health and safety,” Ramos said.

Yapha also urged the Environmental Management Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to investigate whether the dumping of coal ash has a permit.

If it does, then DENR must find out why coal ash is “dumped everywhere” and not in a designated area where any potentially hazardous elements can be contained.

Last week, Glacc asked DENR to set guidelines on the disposal of waste products like coal ash. This followed a letter from Naga City Administrator Arthur Villamor, asking a power company to explain reports about ash dumping activities near its coal-fired plant. (With RSA)