SEVERAL students of the University of Cebu-Maritime Education and Training Center (UC-METC) have been forced to wear face masks while attending classes allegedly due to the foul smell coming from the re-opened landfill in Barangay Inayawan, Cebu City.

Several nearby business establishments have already complained about the stench and sought the help of Presidential Assistant for the Visayas Michael Diño.

These incidents bolstered the plan of Councilor Joel Garganera, chairperson of the City Council’s committee on environment, to file a Writ of Kalikasan before the City Council so the facility will be shut down.

Protective measures

A professor from the UC-METC posted on social media Wednesday afternoon, a photo of his students wearing face masks because of the foul smell coming from the Inayawan landfill.

“Wearing masks is the only way to be protected from air pollution caused by the Inayawan dumpsite’s foul odor,” said Emmanual Pacudan Crucio on his post, which has already been shared 103 times as of yesterday afternoon.

Crucio said he took the photo during his 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. class on marine environment protection as foul air started to fill their room on the fourth floor.

He had instructed his students to bring with them face masks since last week yet.

Baho gyud kaayo. Mura ganig bahaw nga gi-ablihan nimo nga kailangan gyud tabunan balik tungod sa kabaho (It really stinks. It’ll like immediately closing a pot full of spoiled rice),” he said.

The professor said he was told by his colleagues that the mountain of garbage in the landfill had been moved to create a service road in the area.

So murag naukay gyud siguro na diha (it seems like the garbage had been moved),” he said.

Crucio also believes the trash being brought to the landfill is not only residual waste, that’s why it’s emitting foul smell.

He said they can smell the stench in the different times of the day but usually in the late afternoon.

Crucio, who has been teaching at UC-METC for five years, said the landfill emitted foul smell in the past but the smell has gotten worse since it was reopened.

Crucio is worried about his students’ health.

UC-METC’s student population is estimated at 7,000. It does not include the K12 classes in its Mambaling campus.

UC Grade 11 students Derek Dejacion, Adrian Antigua, Joshua Tango-an, Earl Arcilla, Arjay Comeros and Kristtofferson Rich Punay told Sun.Star Cebu they can smell the stench from the landfill even in the morning.

Businesses affected

Sometimes, they said, the smell lingers for a whole day but their classes have yet to be canceled because of it.

The landfill, they said, can be seen from the their rooms.

According to Crucio, he posted the photo of his students wearing face masks on social media hoping the City will act on it.

He was told by their campus director Arnel Malaga to report the matter to City Hall but he preferred to post it on Facebook as it has a wider reach.

Crucio, a licensed environmental planner and vice president of the Solid Waste Management Association of the Philippines, hopes the City will come up with a long-term solution to its garbage problem.

As for the businesses at the South Road Properties, Dino said he was told their sales dropped by 60 to 70 percent.

“And that is unacceptable,” he said.

Dino said he plans to meet with Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) 7 officials within the week so he will know the circumstances and their stand on the reopening of the facility.

It was in June, when the City headed by then Acting Mayor Margarita Osmeña reopened the 15.4-hectare landfill. The move was supported by her husband now Mayor Tomas Osmeña.

The reason behind the reopening of the facility is so the City can save funds, considering that the City was spending an average of P20 million per month to dump its trash in a private sanitary landfill in Consolacion.

Judicial intervention

The Inayawan landfill was closed in January 2015 upon orders of former mayor Michael Rama.

Garganera, in a separate interview, said he will file a resolution next week, requesting the executive department to close the landfill within 15 days.

If it fails to do so, he will sought the intervention of the judiciary by filing a Writ of Kalikasan.

Asked about this, Mayor Osmeña said he knows of the “bad” situation in the landfill but he has no plans of closing it.

He said the council sat on the request of the executive department to buy P10-million worth of anapog (limestone), which could’ve helped minimize the smell from the facility.

“We are not going to close it. We are going to try to mitigate the smell. They will spray it. The anapog is supposed to cover the garbage but they don’t like to fund it. Basta, we are doing what we can. They are laughing at us because they want the people to suffer but we are trying to do what we can,” he said.

Osmeña said he doesn’t want the City to spend P20 million per month to throw its garbage in Consolacion.

Department of Public Services Chief Roberto Cabarrubias said there are two suppliers who can provide enzymes that will control the foul smell.

The two suppliers conducted a demonstration last week.

Cabarrubias said they’ll decide next week which supplier to pick.

DENR 7 officials plan to send a team to UC-METC to determine if the foul smell affecting the students is from the landfill.

If it is, then the City could face sanctions for failing to mitigate it, said Dr. Eddie Llamedo, DENR 7 spokesperson.

Llamedo told Sun.Star Cebu that a team from the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) 7 will be sent to the UC-METC to assess the odor.

“We want to determine if the odor circulating around the school is tolerable, intolerable or foul,” Llamedo said.

Since the school has yet to file a complaint on the matter, Llamedo said they will conduct their own assessment, which will include revisiting the conditions agreed upon by the Cebu City government in exchange for opening the facility.

Llamedo said the City had agreed to put up a protective lining on the waste being disposed to contain the smell.