EMB 7: Cebu City dumping of debris, waste in SRP illegal

·6 min read

THE Environmental Management Bureau Central Visayas (EMB 7) has found that the alleged dumpsite established by the Cebu City Government at the South Road Properties (SRP) is actually only a temporary "transfer station," but this does not mean that the City has not violated the law.

EMB 7 spokesperson Cindylyn Pepito said the area where the City is dumping debris and waste collected during the two-day Oplan Barug Sugbo last Dec. 30 and Jan. 2 can’t qualify as a "transfer station."

Pepito said the EMB 7 sent a team to the site on Tuesday, January 4, 2022, following orders from Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Central Visayas Executive Director Paquito Melicor to investigate reports that the City was establishing an open dumpsite at the SRP.

During their investigation, EMB 7 officials spoke to a caretaker in the area who claimed that the site was a "transfer station."

The same caretaker said they are set to submit a request to EMB 7 to reopen a transfer station in Barangay Inayawan that was ordered closed last year due to environmental violations.

Pepito, however, said the City has yet to formalize this request.

Pepito said the area where the city is dumping the debris cannot qualify as a "transfer station" based on Republic Act 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2003, which says a transfer station can only store waste for at most 24 hours.

The law also states: "The siting of the transfer station shall consider the land use plan, proximity to collection area, and accessibility of haul routes to disposal facility. The design shall give primary consideration to size and space sufficiency in order to accommodate the waste for storage and vehicles for loading and unloading of wastes."

In a separate interview, Cebu City Councilor Joel Garganera said the City’s decision to choose the SRP as a temporary disposal site for debris collected during the Oplan Barug Sugbo was a "drastic measure."

"I'm not saying that what we did is environmentally sound. But for that given period, it was the logical thing to do," Garganera, who chairs the committee on environment and natural resources in the Cebu City Council, told SunStar Cebu.

Garganera vowed to EMB that they plan to remove the dumped debris in the area within a week, but they also need to find another area where they can dump the waste permanently.

He appealed to the EMB and DENR to assist them in how they can properly dispose of the debris they collected, especially since their contracted landfill is temporarily inaccessible due to Typhoon Odette's effects on the facility.

Odette and rain

On Monday night, Jan. 3, Cebu City Councilor Eduardo Rama Jr., chairman of the committee on public services of the Cebu City Council, said the devastation brought by Typhoon Odette (Rai) and recent rains in Cebu had caused the pile-up of uncollected garbage in the city.

Rama said the City and its 80 barangays were unable to collect garbage for five days due to these two factors.

Rama enumerated to Superbalita Cebu the many challenges garbage collection faced.

First was the notice by ARN Central Waste Management that its landfill in Barangay Binaliw was closed for two days, a day after the typhoon because it had also been affected.

Another problem was that the weighing scale for garbage could not be used as a guide on how much to pay for the load of each garbage truck in the City because there was still no electricity.

Odette knocked down power lines and cell towers in Cebu last Dec. 16, causing a province-wide blackout and communication problems.

Power has yet to be restored in many parts of the city, as the Visayan Electric has managed to energize only 33 percent of its franchise area so far that covers four cities and four towns in Metro Cebu.

There was also a pole blocking the road to the landfill. But after it was removed, the landfill became difficult to enter after daily rains in Cebu made the way slippery.

The trucks hired by the City to dump garbage also did not have drivers as the drivers had gone home and it was difficult to communicate with them because many places still don’t have cell phone signals.

If there was a radio, it was also not easy to charge because there is still no electricity in many places, Rama said.

The 17 trucks of the Department of Public Services are not sufficient to haul all the garbage in the city. Trucks of the private contractors are needed.

On Tuesday, Jan. 4, Councilor Jerry Guardo told Superbalita Cebu that the City had hired 56 dump trucks, 12 payloaders and seven skid loaders.

Their services were obtained under "emergency procurement" allowed by the government with the payments based on the Association of Carriers and Equipment of Lessors (ACEL) rate approved by the Commission on Audit.

One of their contractors is Hesreal Devt. Corp.

Guardo said they pay P2,500 an hour for the heavy equipment, but the City saves more this way because the company will be the one to take care of paying the drivers and take care of the fuel for each truck as well.

They did this because the damage caused by the storm was so severe that even in three days, they found that the City would not be able to clear the roads without the use of heavy equipment.

So Mayor Michael Rama appointed him chairman of logistics of the City’s cleanup drive and instructed him to find a way.

They will take the funds for this from the P1 billion calamity fund approved by the Council.

Guardo said they have cleared 98 percent of the major and primary roads, so they will now target the secondary roads in the sitios.

With the garbage still piling up, the City will ask the EMB 7 to allow them to use the Inayawan landfill as a transfer station so that if they cannot dump trash at the Binaliw landfill, then the City will have a temporary place to store the garbage.

This is also to avoid a repeat of what is happening now, which is the failure of the City to collect garbage because it has a contract with only one landfill.

They are also looking at entering into a contract with a landfill in Aloguinsan town.

In an earlier interview, Cebu City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office head Gerardo Carillo said the City was looking into the three-month use of the Inayawan landfill as a transfer station due to the magnitude of the waste problem.

Another plan of the City is to ask the Toledo City local government unit to allow City Hall to dispose of its trash at a landfill that is still under construction in the neighboring city.

This would be the option if Cebu City could not dispose of its trash in the Binaliw landfill.

“We have agreed that the basura (garbage) will be thrown at Inayawan transfer station while the debris will be at SRP (South Road Properties). City will request special authority from EMB for the permit to operate the transfer station for three months,” Carillo’s text message to Superbalita Cebu on Monday night read.

He explained that from the transfer station, the garbage would still be hauled to the landfill in Binaliw.

Barangays may dispose of their garbage directly at the Binaliw landfill, however, if they are closer to the landfill because it saves more fuel.

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