Dagupan fears garbage crisisBy Gabriel Cardinoza
Inquirer Northern Luzon
DAGUPAN CITY—The first thing Mayor Benjamin Lim had intended to accomplish when he first became mayor in 2001 was to solve the city’s mounting garbage problem.
But when he finished his second term six years later, the problem was still there.
Since resuming his post in 2010, Lim is still struggling to find a lasting solution to the city’s environmental woes.
The National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC), the agency tasked with implementing Republic Act No. 9003 (the Ecological Solid Management Act), can order at any time the closure of the city’s 50-year-old open dump inside Tondaligan National Park in Barangay Bonuan Gueset here, the mayor said.
The law, which took effect in 2001, bans open dumps and requires communities to build and operate sanitary landfill facilities.
“If the national government is going to close that, then we are dead the following day because I don’t know where to dump our waste as of now,” Lim said.
This city’s garbage problem could have been resolved had Lim’s solid waste management blueprint not miscarried. With
RA 9003 already a law when he first became mayor in 2001, Lim began trainings on waste segregation in the city’s 31 villages. The city government acquired a 35-hectare property in the hilly village of Awai in San Jacinto town to host the sanitary landfill.
Setting up a sanitary landfill within city limits was not possible because of its shallow aquifer and swampy terrain.
The project in San Jacinto was soon shelved, however, due to objections from the community, but Lim said he would revive plans to develop the Awai lot as soon as he convinces residents to allow him to proceed.
He said the other hurdle to the project is its cost. “You need P200 million minimum as can be gleaned from the Urdaneta [City] experience [with developing a sanitary landfill]. Where do I get the P200 million to operate the sanitary landfill?” he said.
The NSWMC website says only the cities of Urdaneta and Alaminos have sanitary landfill facilities in the province. The rest still operate controlled or open dumps. NSWMC records show that of 1,614 local governments in the country, only 38 have sanitary landfills, 60 have started developing their ecological landfill facilities, 384 operate controlled dumps and 643 continue to use open dumps.
At a May meeting of the League of Cities of the Philippines in Puerto Princesa City, Lim urged the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to divide the local governments into clusters and pinpoint where a sanitary landfill these governments may share should be built.
“I tell you, nobody wants garbage in their backyard. [That’s why] it has to be decreed. It has to be pushed by the national government so that there will be no complaints,” he said.
He said the national government should also finance the construction of the facilities.
“Assuming that there are 80 sites in the country that will be funded by the national government at even P300 million each, it’s still small, as against the hazards that these could create to the communities,” he said.
A clustered landfill would make the facilities viable, he said.
“Our garbage in Dagupan is 120 metric tons [of mixed wastes]. [Our] residual waste [is] about 60 MT. So, it won’t be viable if it’s only our garbage that will be thrown in a landfill. We need at least 400 MT and we need to get garbage from other towns,” he said.
But in the absence of national government funding, Lim said the city government would partner with a private group for the construction of the city’s sanitary landfill in San Jacinto.
He said two firms had started exploring the idea because “a sanitary landfill is [a] very good business [since you] can charge tipping fees.”