Greenpeace blockades dumpsite on Laguna Lake

Demands clean up, not cover up

Feature story - June 23, 2009
Greenpeace Water Patrol activists today blockaded a polluting waste dump on the shores of Laguna Lake to halt shoddy "closure" operations that will do more harm than good to the lake and surrounding communities. The environment group, together with the EcoWaste Coalition, is demanding a proper clean up of the Taytay open dumpsite, rather than the cosmetic cover up currently being undertaken in the thirteen hectare trash heap.

Greenpeace Water Patrol activists blockade a polluting waste dump to halt shoddy “closure” operations that will do more harm than good to the lake and surrounding communities.

Early this morning, the volunteers from Greenpeace shut the gates of the dumpsite in Barangay Muzon with chains and metal bars.  Scaffolds with signs that said "Stop Water Pollution! Clean Up, Not Cover Up!" were used to further block the closed gates to prevent trucks from entering.  Closure for the dump supposedly began last month, but despite the closure notice, garbage trucks still dump waste at the location, hurriedly covered up by truckloads of soil.

"It is clear that no clean up is happening in Taytay--instead, plans are underway for a massive cover up of this illegal dump.  Greenpeace agrees that this dumpsite should be closed--but it should be closed down properly.  The current closure procedure--unfortunately endorsed by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)--is worthless, and involves no semblance of rehabilitation at all.  Unless there is a genuine clean up, toxic leachate from this dump, even when hidden, will continue to contaminate Laguna Lake and its surrounds for decades, endangering the health and well-being of communities," said Greenpeace Southeast Asia Toxics Campaigner Beau Baconguis.

The Taytay dumpsite is illegal under Republic Act no. 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000, which outlaws open dumpsites, RA no. 9275 or the Philippine Clean Water Act of 2004 which bans waste dumps or landfills near water bodies, and RA no. 8749 or the Philippine Clean Air Act of 1999 which mandates local government units to promote, encourage and implement in their respective jurisdictions a comprehensive ecological waste management that includes waste segregation, recycling and composting.

The Laguna Lake Development Administration (LLDA) awarded the municipality of Taytay with the "Nakakasulasok Award" (shameful award) in 2007 and 2009 for the continued operation of the facility.  Closure operations in the site began only in May 2009.  Currently, plans are underway to build a multi-million sports complex and school buildings on top of the garbage heap.  Greenpeace and EcoWaste Coalition are questioning the soundness of the proposal, as these facilities will literally be built on a toxic and unstable mound of trash, jeopardizing the health and safety of children in particular.

"The threat of far-reaching pollution is real.  This is why the current dumpsite closure guidelines need drastic improvement.  We need to discontinue dumping and put in place all the essential measures and safeguards to reduce, if not thwart, the threats of chemical pollution.  It is not enough just to fence the dumps and cover the stinking trash with soil. These are contaminated spots requiring stringent rehabilitation and monitoring even after their closure," said EcoWaste spokesperson Manny Calonzo.

Greenpeace and the EcoWaste Coalition are at present circulating a document that will improve on current guidelines for closure and rehabilitation of dumpsites and other waste disposal facilities. According to the groups, the "best practice" for dumpsite closure includes: public disclosure of closing and rehabilitation plans; formation and empowerment of a multipartite monitoring team per dumpsite with strong representation from the concerned stakeholders at the start of the process; a historical assessment of the dumpsite/waste disposal facility to get a better understanding of the nature of wastes in the dump and determine appropriate measures to deal with the closure and rehabilitation properly; as well as the establishment of leachate collection systems.

"In particular, Greenpeace is asking for proper closure, clean up and rehabilitation of dumpsites near or around bodies of water such as the Laguna Lake.  The pollution of freshwater sources is a serious problem, one that will inevitably aggravate the major water crisis which experts predict will most likely occur in the country in the next decade.  We are therefore challenging the local government of Taytay, in particular Mayor Gacula, to adopt these guidelines if he is indeed sincere in his claims to protect Laguna Lake," said Baconguis.

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