Greenpeace Water Patrol returns trash, toxic water to DENR

Feature story - June 24, 2009
Greenpeace Water Patrol activists today returned trash and toxic water from a dumpsite in Laguna Lake to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to call attention to how shoddy dumpsite closure policies are endangering the country’s water sources and people’s health and welfare. Greenpeace, together with the EcoWaste Coalition, is demanding that the government agency implement more stringent closure guidelines for garbage dumps.

A Greenpeace Water Patrol activist collects toxic water from a tap attached to a display case containing garbage which the group delivered to the the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Manila, 24 June 2009.

Volunteers dressed in protective suits entered the DENR compound carrying two containers displaying waste taken yesterday from the Taytay municipal dumpsite.  During the impromptu press conference at the agency's entrance, volunteers placed water taken from the waste receptacles into a bottle which they labeled "toxic water from Laguna Lake courtesy of DENR Sec. Lito Atienza."  The bottle was then delivered to the secretary's office.

"Greenpeace has been repeatedly calling for the protection of Laguna Lake, starting with the proper closure of dumpsites on its shores and its watershed area.  These should not have been allowed around the lake in the first place.  While the intent to close the existing dumpsites is good,  DENR's shoddy waste dump closure policy is pointless since it merely covers up the problem.  The garbage, although hidden under soil, will continue polluting Laguna Lake and its surrounds.  We challenge the DENR to adopt a better dumpsite closure policy and are hereby providing them with recommendations so that people's health and the environment are not endangered, " said Greenpeace Southeast Asia Toxics Campaigner Beau Baconguis.

Yesterday, Water Patrol activists barricaded the Taytay dumpsite.  The four hour barricade of the Taytay dump resulted in a pledge from the municipality of Taytay that they will follow the stringent guidelines formulated jointly by the two environment organizations.  According to these guidelines, closure for dumpsites and waste disposal facilities near bodies of water must include excavation and treatment of the garbage as toxic leachate from the garbage can continue contaminating water bodies for many decades.  The municipality is planning to build schools and a sports complex on top of the garbage heap once it has been closed.  Greenpeace and the EcoWaste Coalition support the closure, but object to the poor standards of the closure policy.

"We urge the National Solid Waste Management Commission to overhaul the rules on dumpsite rehabilitation to ensure the long-term safety of our waters from chemical pollution.  It is better to clean up the toxic mess now rather than wait for more costly and devastating consequences due to the mere cosmetic closure of the polluting dumps," said EcoWaste Coalition spokesperson Manny Calonzo.

Experts predict that freshwater will become a scarcer and scarcer resource. Pollution of water sources will only aggravate this shortage.  According to Greenpeace, the government must realize that the commitment to reverse the severe degradation of the country's freshwater sources such as Laguna Lake is a commitment to safeguard the health and welfare of communities and future generations.

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