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Sarihay in Focus: “Stinking Snag” by the Manila Bulletin Research Team

Posted on May 7, 2015

(Third in an eleven-part series.)

In “Stinking Snag”, published on October 29, 2014, the Manila Bulletin reported on the ongoing conflict between residents of local communities in San Jose del Monte City (SJDM), Bulacan and local government regarding the establishment of Alejandro Waste Management, Inc. (formerly V.G. Puyat Landfill), a sanitary landfill operation based in Barangay Minuyan Proper in said city.

Tackling a key issue in solid waste and air pollution management – one of FPE’s primary focuses in its environmental agenda – the report earned the Manila Bulletin Research Team the Best Investigative Report award from the Foundation’s first ever Sarihay Media Awards.

Residents are raising concerns about the environmental and health hazards, as well as immediate inconveniences caused by having such a facility operating within close proximity to residential areas. Along with Barangay Minuyan Proper, Barangay Sapang Palay Proper has also borne the brunt of having the landfill operation too close for comfort. For years, they have endured against the stench, water contamination, and other related ill-effects, coming from the landfill. The story also claims that health issues in the area, such as diarrhea and respiratory diseases, have already been reported as a result of deteriorating air quality.

SJDM city government has been criticized for its lack of political will and foresight, as well as inconsistency in terms of implementing policies addressing cleanliness and health concerns. National government has also received flak for “pointing fingers” on the issue with the local government unit.

Aside from the city government’s failure to sustain the use of materials recovery facilities (MRFs) in barangays – which then allowed barangays in SJDM to have their wastes sorted out prior to being transferred to a landfill – the location of the landfill (“some hundred meters away from a water filtration facility,” according to the article) also posits an even worse long-term and far-reaching threat by way of possible water contamination.

Adding to the concerns of the local residents are observations that the number of garbage trucks hailing from other Bulacan towns are entering and using the landfill facility.

Residents and concerned environmental groups have cited Republic Act (RA) 9003, or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act for the facility’s questionable operations.

“According to Republic Act 9003, a sanitary landfill can accept only residual wastes, but the wastes being dumped into the Minuyan landfill are of mixed biodegradable and non-biodegradable ones,” according to Bangon Kalikasan President Jose Papa.

The landfill operator was approached for comment, but declined to respond to the Manila Bulletin Research Team.

A sanitary landfill located in Barangay Minuyan Proper, San Jose del Monte City in Bulacan, is the subject of a heated conflict between local residents and city government. (EcoWaste Coalition, via Manila Bulletin)

For its part, SJDM’s City Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) officials have acknowledged the concerns raised by their constituents. However, they claim that the privately-owned landfill operation is fully compliant to the guidelines listed in the issued Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC). This was confirmed by national government by way of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Environmental Management Bureau (DENR-EMB) Region 3.

According to SJDM CENRO dispatcher Ariel Zarcilla, the landfill is “strategically located”, and has a methane recovery system, monitoring facilities, and leachate processing procedures to address and contain its harmful byproducts. The CENRO also maintains that it conducts “quarterly multi-part-time monitoring” on the site.

City government has also disproved of claims that garbage from other Bulacan towns are being dumped in the Minuyan Proper-based facility, citing that only residual wastes from SJDM’s 59 barangays make their way to the landfill.

SJDM CENRO Head Engr. Thelma Bautista maintains that complaints against the landfill come from “those who do not understand its operations.” Concerns regarding the Alejandro landfill potentially becoming the next “Payatas” – the Quezon City dumpsite that made headlines in 2000 when a garbage landslide killed more than 200 people – are unfounded.

Further, Bautista posed a challenge to the residents, saying that they also have a role in helping the community’s zero waste campaign by segregating their own garbage.

“If they do not want the disposal facility, then they should show us that we do not need one,” she said.

Read the full article here.

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The Sarihay Media Awards was launched last February 2014 in recognition of the important role of the media in promoting awareness and better understanding of environmental and sustainable development issues among policymakers, decision makers, and the public. The campaign served as both acknowledgement and reward to those who deliver outstanding and responsible reportage of environmental news. The term "Sarihay" comes from the Filipino phrase, "Samu't Saring Buhay", which aptly describes biodiversity.

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