‘Garbage crisis in three years’

- Nikko Dizon -
Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Chairman Bayani Fernando reiterated his warning of a looming garbage crisis in the next three years if no sanitary landfill is found for Metro Manila’s garbage.

"We have to be able to find a place for the landfill because in two to three years, there could be a garbage crisis," Fernando told reporters in between his inspection of clogged waterways around the metropolis yesterday.

President Arroyo earlier ordered Fernando to strictly implement the door-to-door garbage policy in the aftermath of flashfloods last Wednesday.

The MMDA said that aside from the heavy rainfall, garbage was to blame for the floods.

Mrs. Arroyo witnessed the hauling of piles of garbage from the Pandacan pumping station in Manila during a surprise visit with Fernando.

The MMDA chief said that garbage indiscriminately thrown by people on the sidewalks and waterways often find their way to pumping stations, ultimately hampering their effectiveness.

But even if the LGUs strictly implement door-to-door garbage collection, the MMDA should be able to provide a sanitary landfill.

MMDA deputy chairman and concurrent flood control unit head Cesar Lacuna said that the controlled dumps in Navotas, Rodriguez in Rizal, Payatas in Quezon City and Clark Field in Pampanga are still functional, but not for long.

"Dumps only have a limited life span. If there’s no sanitary landfill in two to three years, then we could be in trouble," Lacuna said.

A sanitary landfill should be environmentally-safe and have an average lifespan of 20 years.

According to Lacuna, Metro Manila generates an estimated 6,000 metric tons of garbage daily.

Lacuna said the MMDA has requested the local officials in San Mateo, Rizal to consider re-opening the landfill.

Two years ago, Fernando had eyed Quezon province as a possible host for the landfill, but residents and local officials strongly opposed the project.

Fernando had said that the host province for the sanitary landfill should be within a 150-kilometer radius of Metro Manila and should be accessible by train.

Fernando had proposed that garbage should be hauled to the sanitary landfill by train.

Yesterday, the agency’s flood control unit declogged waterways in Pureza, Manila and Araneta Avenue in Quezon City.

Fernando and other MMDA officials proceeded to inspect the San Juan River, which nearly overflowed last Wednesday.

The MMDA chief said there is a need to remove illegal settlers, trees, and all other structures along the river bank to increase its capacity as the catch basin for the floodwaters in Quezon City, eastern Metro Manila and portions of Manila.

"Kumikipot na ang ilog at hindi na kayang dalhin ang tubig kapag malakas ang ulan. If we don’t fix this, it will aggravate the flooding upstream," Fernando said.

Fernando said water flows from the San Juan River to the Pasig River and is released into Manila Bay.
Old habits die hard
When it comes to the problem of garbage collection, Pasay City Mayor Wenceslao Trinidad blames the bad habits of some of his constituents.

Trinidad said he supports the door-to-door garbage collection policy of the MMDA. The problem lies with disciplining some of his constituents.

"We are following MMDA’s garbage program, but it is difficult to implement because it requires the training of the residents, some of whom are really stubborn," he said.

His statement came in the wake of Fernando’s claim that only less than half of the 17 mayors in Metro Manila abide the agency’s door-to-door garbage collection program.

Although their city government has taken initiatives to orient residents on the system, many simply continue to throw trash into piles along the road.

"Our barangay officials are asked to attend a seminar on the proper method of gathering garbage every Saturday," the mayor said.

Garbage trucks are scheduled to pick up garbage at around 2 a.m., but the residents start leaving garbage by 10 p.m. at a common dumping ground.

Under the door-to-door garbage collection program, residents are asked to wait for garbage collectors before putting out their garbage. They are urged not to simply leave them on the sidewalk.

Despite this, the Pasay City government said it did not suffer any major flooding problems in the past two days.

"We did not contribute to the floods because we are able to control our garbage. It was only in Maricaban that we had a flood problem, but the waters immediately subsided," Trindidad said.

In Makati City, the spokesperson of Major Jejomar Binay said garbage collection has never been a problem in the city because they have effectively implemented their own garbage segregation scheme.

Lito Anzures said they collect non-degradable garbage every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, while biodegradable items are collected every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Bulk garbage are disposed on Sundays.

Segregation violators are be given a warning on the first offense. Another violation and collectors will not be picking up their garbage. They will be fined accordingly if they are caught improperly disposing of their trash.

As a result, the Makati segregation system has been commended by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
Camanava flood recedes
Floodwater in the Camanava (Caloocan, Malabon, Navotas, Valenzuela) area receded yesterday, but classes in all school levels and government offices were still suspended.

"Like in other Metro Manila areas, classes in all levels and government offices remained suspended in our area," Genesis Sanoy of the Navotas’ social welfare department said.

Sanoy said that only government agencies with disaster-related functions were required to report for work.

He said that despite improved weather conditions yesterday morning, around 24 families, or 120 individuals, living in low-lying barangay of Sipak Almasin were brought to safer ground at the Bagumbayan Elementary School.

"We have a common problem with other flood-prone localities. Many of those severely affected by the flood still refuse to heed our call to evacuate for their own safety," Sanoy said.

He cited in particular Barangay Tangos residents, who despite the rising water still refused to leave their dwellings.

Alma Miranda of the Malabon City Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) said there was no more flooding in the city’s 21 barangays.

Malabon, situated below sea level, suffers the most during flashfloods.

Even in the absence of rain, most of the city’s barangays are submerged in floodwaters when high tide occurs.

In Caloocan City, Abet Quarisma of the city hall’s information center, said that most parts of the city, except portions of the Dagat-Dagatan area, are now clear of floodwater.

Cecilia Menesis of the Valenzuela City police station Tactical Operation Center said that of the city’s 32 barangays, only Viente Realis remained impassable to light vehicles as of 1 p.m. yesterday.

Wednesday’s flooding, according to the residents in the area, was the worse ever in Camanava. They blamed it on clogged waterways caused by uncollected garbage.
No major damage
The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) reported no significant infrastructure damage despite torrential rains and widespread flooding the past two days, but blamed garbage for much of the experienced flashfloods in Luzon.

DPWH Assistant Secretary Rafael Yabut said clogged drainage systems were the primary cause of the floods in Metro Manila. He said creeks are now heavily silted while squatting on its fringes caused them to become narrower.

DPWH’s flood control functions in Metro Manila have been transferred to the MMDA, although foreign-funded flood control projects remain in its jurisdiction.

Yabut assured that danger on the "seriously damaged" Tullahan bridge at the boundary of Valenzuela and Malabon on McArthur Highway has not worsened after river water swamped the 50-year-old concrete bridge.

The recent heavy rains has caused river water, along with its garbage, to engulf the bridge leaving little visible sign of its permanently barricaded center lanes to warn motorists.

Works has started on a detour bridge a few meters upstream before the six-lane Tullahan bridge for a year-long reconstruction that will elevate the bridge some 1.2 meters from the water.

Yabut said other bridges in Metro Manila that are crucial to ease traffic flow would soon be inaugurated. He said Sevilla bridge in Mandaluyong will be opened on Aug. 29 while Dongalo bridge in Parañaque will be inaugurated on Sept. 15.

Yabut said the P8-million Tullahan detour bridge could also be ready in a month’s time. With Evelyn Macairan, Pete Laude, Jose Aravilla

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