“SIGE lang ta istorya ani...waste reduction... no segregation, no collection, pero dili ko pwede nga dili mangolekta og un-segregated kay ako ang kasab-an sa mayor... Do your thing, I'll do my thing.” -- Cebu City Department of Public Services acting chief John Paul C. Gelasque

HERE'S the fact, the reality: When business establishments, private homes and public places go to the trouble of segregating "Malata" from "Di Malata" garbage, they think that after City Hall collects the garbage, the perishable and non-perishable truckloads of trash will go to separate places: one kind to the landfill, the other to an MRF or material recycling or recovery facility.

Every piece of garbage goes directly to the landfill in Binaliw, Cebu City from the time trash is collected by DPS (Department of Public Services), the barangay, or the contractor. Garbage doesn't go to a transfer station where the MRF is usually located. There's no more transfer station. Presumably no MRF too.

The priority, it appears, is the collection of garbage from streets and public places, where they're visible and sore to the eyes of elected officials and their constituents. Which has become more pressing since Mayor Mike Rama set an "ultimatum" deadline, June 12, 2023, for city streets and thoroughfares to be cleared of dirt, the ugly, and the undesirable. "No garbage 24/7 on the streets" is the mayor's order for the cleanup.

Who'd think of segregation? Not DPS, whose job, according to acting chief John Paul Gelasque, is to collect. DPS's function is to collect, segregated or un-segregated. His policy is "Do your thing, I'll do my thing," Gelasque told the councilors last May 17, 2023.

A source who gave me the gist of the proceeding said Councilor Joel Garganera made it even plainer by asking the DPS head: "Imong role, segregated or un-segregated, kolekta lang gyud ka." Gelasque replied: "Yes, sir."

Some takeaways on the garbage problem, from Gelasque's disclosures and News+One sources:

[1] 'PILES UPON PILES.' After DPS clarified its policy -- that is, non-selective, not-picky collection -- Councilor Rey Gealon, whose complaint led to Gelasque's appearance before the Sanggunian, filed a resolution "urging" DPS to collect "piles upon piles in the usual areas by the roadside throughout the city around 9 p.m." when traffic is no longer at its peak. Apparently, Gealon focuses on the collection: no mention, for now, of segregation and recycling.

[2] 'AT END OF THE DAY, NGITNGIT.' On the problem of non-segregation, Minority Floor Leader Nestor Archival Sr. told me Thursday, June 8, the efforts of establishments and individuals have been "wasted" since, as DPS admits, it's not enforcing the no-segregation-no-collection rule. All the trash will go to the same truck, which dumps the mixed garbage to the landfill. The hassle of segregating before City Hall seems to turn out as wasteful exercise.

Earlier in the meeting with the DPS chief, Councilor Garganera said, "...Pero at the end of the day, bisan sa unsegregated pa na or bisan og segregated pa na, maipon gihapon sa un-segregated." On which, Vice Mayor and Presiding Officer Raymond Alvin Garcia remarked, playing on the cliché "at the end of the day (voted in 2019 as UK's most infuriating cliché): "At the end of the day, ngitngit lang gihapon." Garganera's assent: "Ngitngit gyud na, at the end of the day, kay wala naman ang adlaw."

Without the segregation and recycling, the City can't meet the goal of reducing garbage, which in turn reduces the expense of trash collection. One City Hall group's forecast is to cut down garbage hauls by 200 to 300 tons. A more modest target, Gelaque told the Sanggunian, is 50 to 100 tons.

[3] 3 TIMES, 3 WORK FORCES. DPS chief Gelasque said garbage in the city is now being collected by three forces thrice a day. The three groups -- DPS, the barangays and private contractors -- collect (a) from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m., (b) from 4 a.m. until 12 noon; and (c) from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. To meet the mayor's June 12 "ultimatum," Gelasque said he's asking the barangay captains that they collect garbage simultaneously with DPS, that is, from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m.

It would seem that there are garbage collectors round the clock. The problem is that not enough people can cover all the areas citywide; how else explain the "piles and piles of garbage" that Councilor Gealon said he saw on street-sides?

[4] TAKING OUT THE GARBAGE, HOTSPOTS. Two bad habits of people seem to bug garbage collection in Cebu City:

-- One is taking out the garbage outside the two-hour period set by DPS: 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. Gelasque didn't mention the other practical time -- when the garbage truck actually appears in the neighborhood. What better time is there, unless of course no one in the household or business outlet can take out the garbage during the DPS-scheduled period.

-- The other is the practice of people to dump their garbage anytime at places DPS calls "hotspots." Garbage is dumped at these places at any time convenient to them, hauling the trash in multi-cab or similar vehicle, even from places outside the city.

Councilor Gealon told me Thursday, June 8, the DPS chief "committed" to post workers from Ceset (Cebu Environmental Sanitation and Enforcement Team) at each hotspot, who'll discourage the offensive dumping and issue citation ticket for each violation. On the schedule to take out the garbage, Gelasque cited the need to spread the information.

[5] COST OF GARBAGE COLLECTION. Councilor Archival told me the City pays a contractor -- identified as GR Ardak -- P3,000 per ton of garbage it collects and, for the garbage that DPS and the barangays collect, the City paid P700 per ton as landfill tipping fee until last April when the amount was raised by landfill owner Prime Waste Solution to P1,100 per ton.

The amount of P3,000 per ton paid to the contractor covers everything, from hauling equipment to labor and landfill fee, Gelasque had said. With 550-600 tons hauled daily, the cost of garbage collection is P400 million to P500 million a year.

Garbage disposal is big money and, not surprisingly, is sometimes allegedly exploited by government fund predators. Last December 14, 2022, the NBI filed plunder and corruption charges involving a P239 million garbage contract against 15 individuals, including ex-city administrator Floro Casas Jr. and former DPS head John Jigo Dacua and DPS inspection officer Allen Omiero Ceballos, and DPS city treasurer's office inspector Romelito Asinjo Datan. and DPS General Services Office inspector Mark Abarquez Ugbinar.

[6] WHAT WASN'T TAKEN UP. Not discussed in recent Sanggunian sessions on the garbage collection problem was the practice, exposed in 2022, of the private contractor having been allegedly paid by the City for the garbage service done by the barangays and DPS.

Is there an assurance that it's not being done anymore? The prosecution process takes up the liability or non-liability of the respondents. How about the administrative procedure at City Hall? Have the errors been corrected and additional safeguards put in place?

[7] ADJUSTING GOALS. The mayor wants zero-garbage on the streets 24/7, which requires a day-and-night garbage collection service. At the same time, there's the law on recycling, which requires a transfer station and an MFR. For now, one apparently can't be met without sacrificing the other.

If the measures won't work, the goal may be adjusted. For example, does the City have to look garbage-free the full 24 hours of a day to the public? The City, even under Singapore-like standard, must have a few hours for garbage disposal and other clean-up tasks. That could be when most of the City are asleep. Efficiency is reasonably met when garbage is not seen on the streets when people are up and about -- or, if the trash offends the public any hour, City Hall can readily send a unit to remove it.