An impending garbage crisis

SunStar Peña
SunStar Peña

The Metro Clark Waste Management Corporation (MCWM) sanitary landfill (SLF) in Kalangitan, Capas, Tarlac, is an engineered sanitary landfill that meets the requirements of RA 9003, the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act. Located on a 100-Hectares area within the Clark Special Economic Zone, it is the first of its kind in the Philippines.

I witnessed how this state-of-the art facility started because they are a member of our group, the Environmental Practitioner’s Association (EPA). The EPA is composed of environmental professionals mostly located in Clark and surrounding areas. I recall how the German SLF expert, Holger H. Holst, painstakingly explained to us this new technology which has long been used in advanced countries.

Local government units (LGUs) were hesitant at first to use the facility because they are accustomed to disposing garbage in open dumpsites at practically no cost. However, the DENR started to strictly enforce RA 9003 and began issuing notice of closure to open dumpsites leaving LGU’s with no choice but to use the Kalangitan SLF. Even those outside of Central Luzon used the facility because there were no accredited SLFs in their areas. When Baguio City had a garbage crisis in 2011, their solid waste was disposed to the Kalangitan SLF.

Now that the Kalangitan SLF has become an integral part of many LGU’s waste management program, reports came out that it is about to close. The BCDA, parent company of CDC, has decided not to renew the 25-year lease of MCWM. This has alarmed LGU’s as there are no comparable facilities in Pampanga, and possibly in the region, where they could legally dispose their waste. I already knew of this impending closure months ago but did not mention it in this column because negotiations were still going on.

The closure of the Kalangitan SLF will not only affect LGU’s, but also the locators of Clark and thousands of industrial and commercial establishments, as well as generators of hazardous waste like hospitals. That’s because treated hazardous waste is required to be disposed of in a DENR-accredited SLF. Only the MCWM facility can cater to this need.

There is one possible alternative- an SLF operated by Floridablanca Enviro Corporation (FEC) located in a 91-hectare property in Brgy. Pabanlag, Floridablanca, Pampanga. This Malaysian-owned SLF started operating in 2018 and is designed to receive 10 million cubic meters of solid waste. The National Solid Waste Management Commission website also listed a private SLF named Eco Protect Management Corporation in Porac, Pampanga but I have no information on this facility.

According to an official of FEC, the facility is already operational. They have all the necessary permits to operate, but they are only authorized to accept a maximum of 1,000 tons per day. This volume is not sufficient to cover all the waste coming from Pampanga and nearby provinces. They have applied for a permit to increase their capacity to 4,000 to 8,000 tons per day, but the process would take at least 6 months. They are not currently authorized to accept treated hazardous waste.

With October just a few months away, it looks like a crisis is imminent unless the national government intervenes.

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