State of city solid waste management

Republic Act (RA) 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000 mandates all local government units to close their respective open dumpsites and replace them with controlled facilities that are environmentally-friendly and feasible in order to protect the health and well-being of the people and the state of the environment. Sixteen years have passed since the passage of the law but only a small percentage of local governments were able to comply with such provision of the law because of the difficulty of localities to locate suitable lands for such facilities and the difficulty of obtaining the social acceptability for projects that have significant impact to the environment and health conditions of the people living in communities in such proposed areas.

Further, the solid waste management law also requires local government units to prepare and submit to the National Solid Waste Commission (NSWMC) their respective 10-year solid waste management (SWM) plans upon the endorsements of the concerned local legislative bodies and the regional offices of the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) for approval and subsequent implementation. The SWM plans define how the different local governments in the country will formulate solutions to the waste and garbage problems in their respective areas of jurisdiction in order to guarantee the good health of the people and a sound environment.

In the Cordillera, it is only Baguio City that has an approved 10-year solid waste management plan after the NSWMC stamped its approval on it in October last year. The salient contents of the said plan are the establishment of an integrated solid waste disposal facility that will include putting up a centralized materials recovery facility (MRF), an anaerobic digester, Environmental Recycling system (ERS) machines, waste-to-energy plant, health care and medical waste disposal treatment plant, and special waste treatment plant in the city-owned 139-hectare land in Sto. Tomas Apugan. The law also requires the city to strictly implement the segregation of waste at source and the recycle, reduce and reuse concept.  The approval and implementation of the plan will also result to the eventual stoppage of the expensive hauling of the city’s residual waste to the engineered sanitary landfill in Capas, Tarlac.

In 2007, the city government attempted to submit its 10-year solid waste management plan after it was endorsed by the city council and the EMB-CAR regional office but it was never acted upon by the NSWMC because of glaring deficiencies, among others, which was tantamount to the non-approval of the plan. Due to the non-approval of such plan, the previous administration resorted to the hauling of garbage outside the city which started with an initial cost of P3,400 per ton of garbage. This has been an expensive option.

In 2010, with a new leadership, the city government continued to look for much cheaper modes of disposing the city’s residual waste and it was able to successful reduce the cost of hauling to around P1,432 per ton, aside from venturing on the conversion of the city’s biodegradable waste to compost fertilizer by purchasing the two ERS machines which are now based at the Irisan closed dumpsite. It was also during the term 2010-2016 that the Irisan open dumpsite was eventually closed by virtue of a consent decree issued by the Court of Appeals following the filing of a writ of kalikasan by concerned citizens against the city for the trash slide.

We must remember that the garbage problem is the concern for everyone. By strictly complying with the segregation of garbage at source, we are contributing to a reduction of the city’s expenses in the hauling of garbage outside the city. By strictly adhering to the recycle, reduce and reuse practice, we are contributing to the lowering of the volume of garbage being hauled out of the city. These are household-level initiatives that will greatly impact on our waste disposal. These are efforts that also have a great impact at the individual level, and children can greatly learn from these. In the meanwhile, the local government is trying to work out a permanent solution to address the increasing volume of garbage citywide. To date, the city produces more than 402 tons of garbage daily, excluding the garbage generated by the Baguio Country Club, Camp John Hay, SM City Baguio and the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA). Note that 166 tons of garbage produced are biodegradable. Only 130 tons daily is being hauled out of the city through a commissioned hauler.

Unfortunately, the impasse at the city council is not helping mitigate the garbage situation in the city. Since amendments to the SWM plan are open, this remedy must be immediately exercised to allow for all members to contribute their centavo worth to the already approved plan. Politicking must be avoided in this crucial concern that impacts particularly on our children. It is high time for our city officials to work together to come up with a permanent solution to the city’s garbage problem and stop their nitpicking. Electoral campaign pronouncements to unite and work together for the welfare of the city constituency might as well be garbage in their mouths if even this problem they cannot offer concrete doable solutions.