'Why do you dump your garbage on us?'.
'Why do you dump your garbage on us? After more than 20 years, we should now dump our garbage in your barangay!' Shocked, the chair kept silent.
The other officials of the affected barangay denounced the unbearable stink from rotting and burnt garbage; the worsening respiratory ailments, skin infections, diarrhea, vomiting; and the trash-filled river emptying into Manila Bay. Their own chair had absented himself. Dumping was his 'business.'
That scene goes back seven years in Malolos City, Bulacan, in a summit on ecological waste management where we were invited to deliver a lecture. Until now, the mayor is having a hard time making the barangays comply with barangay-based waste management.
Republic Act No. 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000 mandates local government units to respect the 'sensitivities' of communities in siting 'sanitary landfills' ('SLFs'), which are good for only five years, and the people to 'internalize the value of environmentally sound and sustainable solid waste disposal.'
The National Solid Waste Management Commission lists 101 'SLFs' or glorified dumps in the country. The 'prominent' SLF sites include Payatas, Quezon City; San Jose del Monte (SJDM) City, Bulacan; Rodriguez (Montalban) and San Mateo, Rizal; San Pedro, Laguna; and Barangay Tanza, Navotas City.
A group of Payatas residents filed a petition for a writ of kalikasan at the Supreme Court seeking the closure of the dump for environmental violations and health reasons. On July 10, 2000, a trash slide buried hundreds of Payatas residents. When the residents were relocated there, it was garbage-free, with clean water and tree-covered rolling hills.
The Payatas lead petitioner also asked Quezon City residents, 'What if we dump our garbage in your barangays?' The dump is close to Metro Manila's source of potable water, La Mesa Dam and Balara Filters Park.
Near Payatas, in Rodriguez, is the Rizal SLF where around four people died in 2013 when the mounds of garbage collapsed. Almost all Metro Manila cities dump their trash in that watershed area.
In SJDM, the dump is in uppermost Barangay San Isidro. On their way there from towns in and outside Bulacan, the trucks spill out trash and stink invades the houses. The dump, also in a watershed, pollutes the creek where residents used to swim and fish, and which connects to the Santa Maria River flowing through various Bulacan towns to Manila Bay.
Before his election, the mayor opposed another SLF in SJDM, which closed allegedly due to lack of 'customers.' But the San Isidro dump continues to accept garbage including hospital waste, with the mayor's knowledge.
San Mateo has four watersheds and five springs, said a community leader. Years ago, after jogging in the area, he would drink from the pristine waters. Now the waters are no longer fit to drink, he said, due to the dump leachate. Dump trucks coming and leaving 24/7 create heavy traffic and pollute the air.
The SLF in San Pedro, Laguna, is located amid middle-class subdivisions where residents invested hard-earned money on their dream homes. It is now giving them nightmares.
The SLF in Tanza, Navotas City, is along the Manila Bay shoreline. RA 9003 states that SLFs must be in an area where the 'landfill's operation will not detrimentally affect environmentally sensitive resources such as aquifer, groundwater reservoir or watershed area.'
Garbage hauling and dumping are a thriving business with the 'right connections' in the national and local governments, involving billions of pesos. On persistent allegations of corruption, RA 9003 says the public can file citizen suits against violators.
'Do not do unto others what you do not want others to do unto you.' Abuse of the integrity of Creation in the environment has caused global warming and climate change.
These glorified dumps must be closed!