Sánchez: Banned. Prohibido. Verboten. Bawal!

MY PROBLEM with the conversation between the mayors of Murcia and Bacolod is that issues are reduced to stench, smoke, and diseases. Mind you, these are valid concerns. I’ll be the last person to consider these issues as trite.

My worry, however, is how Mayor Andrew Montelibano of Murcia and Bacolod City mayor Monico Puentevella are missing fundamental legal environmental issues.

Look at this. When residents of Purok Acacia, Barangay Felisa complained of the stench and smoke from the dumpsite, Mayor Puentevella responded that the city will have to search for another location to solve the problem in the existing dumpsite.

Puentevella added that since the city has no permanent solution to the present problem in the dumpsite, the LGU planned to buy or rent a lot to be utilized as the waste dumping area of the city. Moreover, the city cannot rehabilitate the existing dumpsite because the lot is not owned by the city.

Another dumpsite? That the issue is about location? Are you serious, Mayor Puentevella? Section 48 of Republic Act No. 9003 (the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000) expressly prohibits open burning in the country because it poses a serious public health and environmental threat in both urban and rural communities.

It’s not the location, buster. Not in my town, not in my city, or barangay. Open trash burning is banned. Prohibido. Verboten. Bawal. Ginadumilian!

Montelibano said he has not received any formal complaint from the residents of Purok Tumpok yet, but the issue should still be addressed immediately instead of waiting for it to get worse.

He said that while the Murcia town government has no authority over the dumpsite that is the property of Bacolod, he hopes that the city government can, at least, keep it clean to avoid the spread of diseases.

Lest the Bacolod mayor forgets, in October 2012, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) signed a deal committing Bacolod with the mayors of the cities of Butuan, Cabanatuan, Legazpi, General Santos, and Iloilo to formalize their participation in the Integrated Persistent Organic Pollutants Project or IPOPS.
It doesn’t matter that he was citizen Puentevella at that time. The pact that the mayors signed bound the local governments to reduce pollutants called “dioxins” and “furans” in their respective localities not only in backyards but in their cities’ dumps.

“Dioxins and furans are two of what we call the ‘dirty dozen’ chemicals whose worldwide use and production are strictly covered by the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants signed in 2001 because of their long-term serious impact on the environment and public health,” said DENR Environment Secretary Ramón Paje.

But unlike the other chemicals on the list, dioxins and furans are “unintentional pollutants,” as they are byproducts of incomplete combustion, or burning, of materials such as household garbage, Paje said.

“The emissions or usok (smoke) that we create whenever we burn our garbage in our backyards, and also as a result of the spontaneous combustion in open dumps, contain these two chemicals,” he said.

Under the DENR-LGU agreement, the city governments will stop the practice of burning garbage in dumps, rehabilitate them, and resort to using landfills. They will also prevent the practice of open burning in backyards and other public places.

The agreement with the DENR is still binding although it was former Bacolod mayor Evelio Leonardia who signed it. In fact, the agreement was a redundancy since RA 6003 is still in force.

Come to think of it, where is the DENR in the picture? They should have been the Cavalry to the rescue of residents of Barangays Blumentritt and Felisa. But its voice is muted by its sound of silence. Paging DENR!


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