Foul-smelling streets due to uncollected, unsegregated waste, dumpsite filling up quickly, and millions of public funds spent on a seemingly dysfunctional garbage collection and disposal system. Clearly, it doesn't need an environmentalist or a solid waste management expert to point out that the garbage problem of Bacolod is beyond serious.

Last week, several media sites reported that the city of Bacolod is set to loan funds pending the approval of the national government for several infrastructure projects, including a “sanitary landfill” for a total of 4.5 billion pesos. This sparks an interest in me not only as an environmentalist but also as a citizen of Bacolod. Because for the longest time, our officials have referred to the one in Barangay Felisa as a sanitary landfill, but, in reality, it operates as an open dumpsite. We have also spent millions in maintaining that dumpsite that violates not only the law of people but the laws of nature.

Way back in 2021, then Councilor Wilson Gamboa Jr already pointed out that what we have is an open dumpsite and not a sanitary landfill and called for the closure of the said dumpsite in Felisa. His position paper to the City Council pointed out that there are many violations of the RA 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000 that have detrimental effects on the environment and people’s health.

Meanwhile, the new administration is pursuing an old plan of opening a new landfill. I dearly hope that they will do the right thing and correct the mistakes of the past administrations. I don’t want to treat this as a partisan political issue because many administrations, regardless of party affiliations, have failed to address this very problem. However, this presents an amazing opportunity for the new administration to DO THE RIGHT THING.

Through the help of civil society organizations, experts, advocates, and other institutions, I know that we will be able to address this issue and improve the sorry state of our city’s garbage collection, disposal, and management.

The problem of segregation at source could be addressed by massive information, education, and communication campaigns and strong enforcement. This can't be done by the government alone, but the schools, churches, and socio-civic organizations can help and extend their resources.

With the opening of a new landfill, I hope that the officials will practice due diligence through consultations, transparency, and collaboration with different stakeholders.

In the long term, systems could be redesigned so people would be encouraged to reduce, reuse, and recycle.

The waste problem of Bacolod is huge, and needless to say, citizens, businesses, and other establishments have a huge role to play, but it is up to the city officials and personnel if they are willing to and can work with these sectors to arrive at a more preferable solution.*

Joshua is a 20-year-old environmentalist from Bacolod City. He is co-founder of the coalition Youth for Climate Hope, and he currently chairs Silliman University’s Student Government Environment Committee.

Feedback and comments are welcome at joshuaovillalobos@su.edu.ph.