Ombud launches program on solid waste

CEBU CITY -- To monitor the local government units’ (LGUs) compliance with Republic Act (RA) 9003 (Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000), the Office of the Ombudsman has launched its Solid Waste Management Compliance Program.

Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon Gerard Mosquera said the program tackles the problem of inaction or indifference.

“Letters shall be sent to randomly selected national agencies and local government units to request information on their compliance with the provisions of RA 9003, which data shall be gathered and evaluated by a technical working group composed of representatives from the Environmental Ombudsman team and civic organizations,” he said.

Initiative applauded

Ramon Magsaysay awardee Antonio Oposa Jr., in an interview with Sun.Star Cebu, applauded the Ombudsman’s initiative.

“The most basic element of character and nation-building is discipline,” said the environmentalist lawyer. “The most basic form of discipline is cleanliness. With this move, perhaps all local officials will now sit up, listen and finally take action.”

Under RA 9003, LGUs were mandated to close open dumps within 18 months from the effectivity of the law, which seeks to protect groundwater, aquifers, reservoirs and watersheds from contamination brought by garbage leachate.

Besides administrative charges, non-compliant local officials face a penalty of P50,000.

Last month, the Cebu City Government received a notice to sue from environmentalists for the alleged “continuing and pervasive” violations against environmental laws.

Alarmed

In the notice sent to Mayor Michael Rama and the City’s Solid Waste Management Board (SWMB), the group said they were alarmed by the continuing lack of awareness, action and effective implementation of RA 9003. This is because litter, plastics and mixed wastes are still a common sight in the city’s streets, they said.

“People do not feel responsible for their wastes; nor do barangay leaders, with the exception of a handful, feel compelled to abide by our laws,” they said.

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales said her office has power to direct any officer or employee of the government to perform and expedite an act or duty required by law.

Morales, in her speech last week, cited statistics from the National Economic Development Authority showing that only 9 of the 17 LGUs in Metro Manila have submitted a Solid Waste Management Plan, while only 414 of the total 1,610 LGUs in the country have complied with the national plan as of 2012, which translates to a 52.9 percent compliance rate for Metro Manila and a mere 25.7 percent compliance rate at the national level.

She said the program is supported by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Department of the Interior and Local Government, and Metropolitan Manila Development Authority.

They are also partnering with environmental groups such as Zero Waste Philippines Inc., Mother Earth Foundation, Eco-Waste Coalition, and Bangon Kalikasan Movement.

The anti-graft office also plans to recognize the best performing government agencies and local government units in terms of compliance with the RA 9003 in next year’s celebration of Earth Day. (KAL/Sun.Star Cebu)
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