‘Laws on dumping toxic waste into the sea inadequate’

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/13 December) — Laws on dumping of toxic waste into the seas need to “adapt to changing times”, the City Legal Office said.

Lawyer John-Christopher T. Mahamud, whose office has filed a complaint against a respondent for allegedly throwing medical waste at Talomo Beach earlier this year, noted there were no clear rules on such act.

In an interview Thursday, Mahamud said the respondent faces charges under the Solid Waste Management Act, the Clean Water Act and the Sanitation Code.

He said the maximum penalty for the violation would be a fine of around P40,000 plus community service.

“That’s one thing we realized when we were handling the case, hindi ganoon kalaki ang penalty para sa (the penalty is not that big for) environmental laws,” he said.

He added that some provisions in the laws that need to “adapt to changing times”. He cited, for instance, that the penalty for throwing toxic waste into the ocean is limited only to ships.

There are no clear rules about dumping waste into the sea, he said.

Mahamud did not reveal the identity of the respondent pending the resolution of the complaint by the City Prosecutor’s Office.

In July, personnel from the City Health Office investigated reports that medical waste such as syringes were found at Talomo Beach, which alarmed residents and the barangay council.

“The law only has baby teeth,” Mahamud said.

He added that the worst could have happened if someone stepped on the syringes that were among the medical waste found in the area.

“Who knows, if these syringes were used on patients that have HIV or another disease?”

Mahamud said that since the city has no ordinance setting a higher penalty, it can only impose the maximum penalty approved by Congress.

He said the case has been pending at the prosecutor’s office for at least two months.

Meanwhile, CLO head Osmundo P. Villanueva Jr. said that city administrator Melchor Quitain had already summoned hospitals that were not properly disposing their waste.

“We have the power enough to cancel their business permits,” Villanueva said.

But he said it was premature to resort to other “administrative remedies” at the moment, adding that until now it was not yet clear whether the liable party was an individual or an establishment. (MindaNews)