MANILA, Philippines -- Residents of San Mateo, Rizal along with environmental groups on Saturday launched a protest action to stop the illegal construction of a new garbage dump there.
Protesters on bikes rolled into town Saturday for a nine-kilometer bike rally to call on the Rizal provincial government to halt the construction of a garbage dump on a 19-hectare area spanning two San Mateo villages, Guinayang and Maly.
Residents of Guinayang and Maly questioned the legality of the dumpsite's construction in their villages when its environmental permit said that it is supposed to be located in the village of Pintong Bukawe.
Their calls were supported by the Coalition for a Garbage-Free San Mateo, which is composed of environmental groups like the EcoWaste Coalition, Greenpeace, Kalikasan-People?s Network for the Environment, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, as well as non-government organizations like Akbayan, Bike Roadie Group, the University of the Philippines? Mountaineers, and the Firefly Brigade.
The residents are asking local officials and the Department of Environmental and Natural Resources to scrap plans to build a new dumpsite in San Mateo altogether.
Jing Husin, spokesperson for the coalition, said that the sanitary landfill also cannot be located in Pintong Bukawe as a 2005 Supreme Court ruling stopped the building of a garbage facility there due to fears of contaminating a nearby watershed.
?The 19-hectare initial phase of the new dumpsite built in Guinayang is located within the Marikina Watershed Reservation. According to the proposal, it is expandable to 200 hectares, which virtually removes almost half of the 473-hectare forest cover in barangays (villages) Guinayang and Maly,? said Husin.
Apart from the serious water pollution threats from garbage leachate seeping into the water systems in the area, the coalition also pointed out that the planned location of the San Mateo landfill has a slope of over 50 degrees, making it prone to natural hazards like landslides.
Residents also lamented that they were never consulted nor informed of the landfill project. Had they been, they said, they would have objected to it because of the health hazards it poses to their community.
?We are against such a project. We want to ensure the future of our children. Dirty water can only bring us sickness,? said Marciano Gulle, a pastor, and one of the protesting San Mateo residents.
?This kind of blight was the reason the old landfill in Montalban (now Rodriguez, Rizal) was closed. Now they?re opening a new landfill in San Mateo,? he added, referring to the 14-hectare garbage dump in Rodriguez which was closed by the provincial government in 2007 for having reached its full capacity.
Rizal then opened an adjacent 19-hectare landfill in Rodriguez, which now accepts garbage from both Rizal and Metro Manila residents.
Meanwhile, a convoy of media people on their way to the construction site of the San Mateo landfill were stopped and threatened by a man on horseback who wielded what appeared to be a ?paltik? or homemade gun. The convoy consisted of six photographers, one reporter, and one television cameraman, plus their guides.
The man -- identified only as Jerry and said to be working for the owner of the landfill, Abelardo L. Salazar -- prohibited the media convoy from continuing on the road some 500 meters away from the landfill?s entrance and pulled out his gun to warn the group against going further.
At one point, the gun-toting ?guard? threatened to shoot one of the photographers when the latter attempted to take photos of him and of the site.
The new garbage dump being built in San Mateo is said to be owned by the San Mateo Sanitary Landfill & Development Corporation (SMSLDC), which is owned by Salazar.
According to the coalition, the SMSLDC was able to secure an Environmental Compliance Certificate from the DENR in November 2008 to construct a landfill in the village of Pintong Bukawe, and not in Guinayang-Maly.