5 towns in Siargao still operating open dump sites

BUTUAN CITY (MindaNews / 22 January) — Five of nine towns in Siargao and Bucas Grande Islands are still operating open dump sites, 18 years after the law on solid waste management was passed.

The Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) in Caraga identified these towns as Dapa, Del Carmen, General Luna, San Benito and San Isidro.

R.A. 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000 prohibits open dump sites and mandates waste segregation, recycling facilities and sanitary landfills.

The law, approved on January 26, 2001, provides that “no open dump sites shall be established and operated, nor any practice or disposal of solid waste by any person, including LGUs, which constitutes the use of open dumps for solid wastes, be allowed after the effectivity of this Act” and that “every LGU shall convert its open dumps to controlled dumps.”

Jessa Lou D. Ampatin, focal person of Solid Waste Management unit of EMB in Caraga told this reporter Friday afternoon that local executives are now being investigated for possible administrative case of neglect of duty.

In 2013, the Environmental Ombudsman program, in collaboration with the EMB of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), launched a three-year nationwide campaign to increase awareness of, and promote voluntary compliance with R.A. No. 9003.

Under this program, local government units were directed to conduct their respective self-assessment as to their compliance status and to voluntarily implement corrective actions.

In 2015, however, tracer results show that R.A. No. 9003 remains to be the least prioritized local government program, according to a press release from the Office of the Environmental Ombudsman.

The DENR-EMB at that time identified and submitted the list of 350 LGUs with recurring and blatant violations of open dump sites to the Ombudsman.

In late October 2016, the Office of the Ombudsman announced they conducted a fact-finding investigation on 84 local government officials in Mindanao for failure to implement RA 9003.

Under its mandate, the Environmental Ombudsman Team handles complaints filed against any public official, employee, office or agency mandated to protect the environment and conserve natural resources where the act complained of appears to be illegal, unjust, improper or inefficient.

Ampatin said among the reasons cited for non-compliance is financial constraints or lack of budget and technical capacity.

Mayors of Dapa and Del Carmen sent no reply when sought for comment through their mobile phone but General Luna mayor Jaime P. Rusillon, who has a pending administrative case before the Office of the Ombudsman for alleged violation of RA 9003, said he is bent on implementing the Ecological Solid Waste Management Program by acquiring a new property for the sanitary landfill.

Rusillon had ordered the shutdown of the town’s open dump site in 2015 but several residents have continued throwing their garbage there.

As the country’s surfing capital and a tourist prime hub in Caraga Region, General Luna has produced more waste compared to other towns.

Various individuals, including the cast of the multi-awarded movie “Siargao” — Jericho Rosales, Erich Gonzales and Jasmine Curtis-Smith — and locals headed by surfer-environmentalist Wilmar Melindo — are pushing for proper waste disposal in Siargao Island.

Ampatin said the number of tourist arrivals in Siargao Island in 2016 was about one million with a projected increase of 7% by 2017.

She noted that based on the waste analysis characterization survey, the estimated nationwide average of waste generation per person per day is at 0.3 kg. (Roel Catoto / MindaNews)

*Updated on 30 January 2018 with clarifications from Ms Ampatin