Wenceslao: Of course, there are options

THE pressure is building up on Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña, who has refused calls to close the Inayawan dump site (I prefer to call it that because the facility has long ceased to be a sanitary landfill). Instead, he is insisting on resorting to mitigating measures to control the stench that has caused discomfort and threatened the health of residents in Inayawan and adjacent areas and people frequenting the nearby firms, especially those in the South Road Properties (SRP).

The City Council, dominated by the opposition Team Rama, is the latest to question the logic of reopening the facility, which was closed by former mayor Michael Rama, the party’s head, more than a year ago. But before that, the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) 7 noted 36 violations of environmental laws and guidelines in the dump site’s operation.

But the mayor is insisting on the sanity of his decision, even blaming the City Council for his failure to control the dump site’s stench and for the violations its operation committed. He, and to a certain extent DENR 7 officials, are downplaying the fact that the dump site has long been full, its location already incongruous to a growing business and residential zone and that those mitigating measures could only be effective for a short time.

City Councilor Joel Garganera, head of the council’s committee on environment, is right: “There is a greater need to rehabilitate the dump site than its need to be reopened.”

So why is Osmeña, who surely knows better, playing hard-headed on this one? Let us come up with some “conspiracy theories” on his motivation.

One, is his decision intended to disturb the SRP locators, many of whom he is not friendly with as of the moment. Osmeña, has, for example, announced early on his intention to rescind the sale of a big chunk of SRP lots to Filinvest Land Inc. and the consortium of SM Prime Holdings and Ayala Land Inc. At least one restaurant owner there was a supporter of the Rama administration. Is this his way of showing the locators who the boss is now?

Two, is his decision borne by pride? It does look like the mayor is bent on showing that the move made by his predecessor on garbage disposal was both wrong and questionable. He had made some noise, for example, about Rama’s use of a sanitary landfill in Consolacion to dump the city’s trash and pay tipping fees in the process. He said the move was anomalous and expensive. He would be swallowing a good dose of pride if in the end he goes back to Consolacion.

And is the mayor’s claim that he has no other alternative believable? Used by someone who claims to be a visionary, that doesn't sound so. Here’s how he put it: “We can’t go anywhere else. We can’t change things overnight. I cannot leave the garbage in our streets.” But of course there are other ways. We already mentioned going back to the Consolacion sanitary landfill. Or if his ego does not allow him to do that, he can look for other facilities outside of the city.

While he still at it, he can start looking for a site within Cebu City for a new sanitary landfill, one that is outside the city's main urban center. A big chunk of the city can be considered suburban and it can host a new landfill. The area should preferably be accessible while at the same time not near residential enclaves. Of course, Osmeña knows where to look for that site. It's just that he doesn't want to do it. He seems to be the equivalent of the person who pretended to be asleep. As we would say, “lisod pukawon ang magpatu'g-tu'g.”

(khanwens@gmail.com/ twitter: @ khanwens)
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