FIRST PERSON - Alex Magno (The Philippine Star) - March 26, 2019 - 12:00am

It was a small detail so casually mentioned by BCDA president Vince Dizon that really grabbed me.

Walking down the long river park, astride the fast-rising venues for the forthcoming Southeast Asian Games, Vince mentioned they chose to relocate the amphitheater because they found a tree that had to be taken out in the original place was home to a woodpecker. The bird was there first and the engineers chose to respect that.

There is an overwhelming respect for nature among those building the mammoth sporting venue. The large stadia followed the contour of the land. The river park obeyed the flow of the waterway. The dormitories built for the athletes were made for them to walk to the competition venues rather than rely on buses.

Vince tells me only five trees were sacrificed to build this venue. All of them were mango trees that could not be balled and moved. All the rest were balled and transplanted nearby.

All the roads had both sidewalks and bicycle lanes. When this place transforms into a government center later, employees can bike to work rather than motor.

The last time we built a completely new facility for an international sporting event was in 1934, when the Rizal Memorial Coliseum was erected. Since then, visiting sports delegations had to contend with substandard sports venues.

When we last hosted the SEA Games in 2005, the various events were dispersed to several school campuses spread all over the metropolitan area. This required transporting the athletes through choked roads to the scattered venues.

Until the Clark venues are completed, we never had facilities that met Olympic standards. The reason we never had a competitive diving team, for instance, is that we never had facilities for “dry diving” that would allow them to train without having to smash into water several times a day. 

All over the New Clark City at Capas, there are large billboards bearing the number of days left to complete work. Last Saturday, the number was 161.

The BCDA leadership and the contractors are working closely to beat that deadline. They are working smartly rather than frenetically, using prefabricated building designs and low-maintenance industrial finishes.

There should be no doubt the venue for the Games will be completed on time. As early as August, Filipino athletes will move into the venue to train in an athletics stadium and aquatics auditorium that is state-of-the-art.

All the other districts of Clark are beehives of activity as well. Hotels are rising fast. The new airport terminal is nearing completion. Factories are humming.

In many areas, one might recall the years the Bonifacio Global City was being built. But in Clark, the access infrastructure came first. That makes all the difference.


All the feverish activity going on at Clark could run into an unexpected hindrance, however.

All the trash being generated at Clark and nearby provinces goes to a high-tech sanitary landfill operated by Metro Clark Waste Management (MCWM) in Kalangitan, Capas, Tarlac. For a time, LGUs from as far as Baguio City and the coastal areas of Pangasinan deposited their waste at the MCWM facility. The Kalangitan facility now serves 90 LGUs in Central Luzon.

Unlike that landfill in the Navotas-Obando coastline that serves the Manila area, the Kalangitan facility uses modern technology to treat industrial waste, preventing leeching of heavy metals into the water table. Chemicals from the trash dumped at the Navotas site seeps straight into Manila Bay.

The Kalangitan facility uses the most advanced technology of clay and plastic linings to prevent waste from escaping to the water table. The methane generated by trash as it rots is trapped and used to produce electricity. A high temperature flare is used to capture the rest of the escaping gas that will otherwise contribute to global warming.

MCWM enjoys a waste service management contract with the Clark Development Corp. (CDC). Through the life of the contract, the Filipino-German joint venture will pay CDC a total of P1 billion in royalties. The company derives its business from the collection of tolling fees for every ton of trash dumped in its landfill. So far, it has proven to be a sustainable business model.

Recently, the DENR’s Manila Bay Coordinating Office threatened the MCWM with closure on a number of minor technical issues – all of them suitably addressed. There is really no need for the threat of abrupt closure unless someone else wants the business.

The abrupt closure of MCWM will send the trash from Clark and 190 other municipalities to unsafe dumping sites. That is a worse outcome.

On one hand, DENR Undersecretary Sherwin Rigor must be congratulated for extending the campaign for cleaning up Manila Bay to as far as the dumping sites of Central Luzon. Rigor is the “ground commander” of the Manila Bay rehabilitation program. Any leeching in the Central Luzon dumpsites could run through the rivers to Manila Bay.

On the other hand, the DENR must realize that summary measures could cause more harm than good. There are not enough suitable sanitary landfills to serve the Mega Manila area and surrounding provinces. The agency must appreciate the necessity for cooperative efforts to upgrade waste handling in place of summary measures.

If we want to stop leeching of toxic substances into the Bay, the most urgent measures will require closure of the Navotas and Payatas dumpsites. Neither is even designed as a sanitary landfill engineered to prevent the escape of heavy metals onto the air and groundwater.

  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?
Login is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

or sign in with