Ombudsman to probe 600 local execs for illegal dump sites
MANILA, Philippines – The Office of the Ombudsman said on Wednesday, February 10, that it will investigate nearly 600 local government officials in 13 regions in the country for allegedly allowing open dump sites in their areas, in violation of the law.
In a statement, the Ombudsman cited 60 complaints filed by Romeo Hidalgo of environmental watchdog Ecowaste Coalition, who alleged that their field investigations point to the officials' violation of Republic Act No. 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, and its implementing rules and regulations.
Section 37 of RA 9003 states:
No open dumps 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 Acts: Provided, That within three (3) years after the effectivity of this Act, every LGU shall convert its open dumps into controlled dumps, in accordance with the guidelines set in Sec. 41 of this Act: Provided, further, That no controlled dumps shall be allowed five (5) years following the effectivity of this Act.
The non-compliance of many local governments with the 15-year-old RA 9003 has been a headache for environmentalists, citizens, and city planners. Some LGUs, however, have shown that it can be done. (READ: Garbage law impossible to implement? Look at San Fernando)
'Blatant violations' of 350 LGUs
The Environmental Management Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR-EMB) has identified and submitted the list of 350 LGUs "with recurring and blatant violations of open dump sites" to the Ombudsman.
The Ombudsman said that in 2013, the Environmental Ombudsman program, in collaboration with the DENR-EMB, launched a 3-year nationwide campaign to increase awareness of, and promote voluntary compliance with, RA 9003.
Under the program, local government units were directed to conduct their own self-assessment of their compliance status, and to voluntarily implement corrective action.
"Two years after implementation, tracer results show that RA 9003 remains to be the least prioritized local government program," the Ombudsman said.
The Ombudsman said the second phase of the project seeks to improve compliance through LGUs' submission of their respective priority corrective action plan to be implemented within a 6-month period, and/or the submission of a 10-year solid waste management plan.
The Environmental Ombudsman team, led by Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon Gerard Mosquerra, handles complaints against public officials, employees, offices, or agencies mandated to protect the environment and conserve natural resources "where the act complained of appears to be illegal, unjust, improper, or inefficient," the Ombudsman said.
"The team also acts on any malfeasance, misfeasance, or nonfeasance committed by any public officer or employee, including conspiring private individuals, if sad act or omission involves any violation of environmental laws or concerns or relates to environmental protection or conservation," it added.
No political will
Senator Loren Legarda, author of RA 9003, lamented that LGUs were "still far from 100% compliance rate" 15 years since the law was passed.
Legarda joined the National Solid Waste Management Commission in its ceremonial filing of complaints before the Ombudsman against those who have violated RA 9003 on Wednesday.
"It is…unfortunate, that we have to come to this point where complaints have to be filed because there are LGUs that lack the political will to do their duty of implementing the law," she said in a statement.
Legarda said that based on the latest DENR statistics, as of 2015, only 36% or 545 LGUs have fully complied with RA 9003.
"Fifteen years have been too long for a grace period and there is no acceptable excuse for non-compliance, especially because there are LGUs that were able to implement this law, which basically says we must segregate garbage and recycle," she said.
She added that P500 million has been allocated in the 2016 budget under the DENR for capacity building programs for LGUs for the implementation of the RA 9003. – Rappler.com