Cebu News

NGO in hot water

Kristine B. Quintas, Jessa J. Agua - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines - The Cebu City Council is investigating a non-government organization that allegedly took advantage of the closure of the Inayawan Sanitary Landfill by asking private establishments and educational institutions “higher fees” for garbage collection.

“We will conduct an investigation on these private groups that are circulating (going around) asking for higher fees and exploiting the condition of the city garbage (dumpsite). They are not clothed with authority by the city government,” said City Councilor Gerardo Carillo in a privilege speech during yesterday’s regular session.

Paglaum Basurero 20/20 allegedly illegally collected fees from business establishments without authority from the city government.

Carillo said they received complaints from several stakeholders protesting over the unregulated collection by the organization.

“I was informed that private groups are going around the city and telling the establishments, considering the city inability to collect garbage, they will do it for a higher fee. They are trying to profit from the situation,” he said.

This is not the first time that Paglaum Basurero figured in a controversy at City Hall over garbage.

September 2013, the Cebu City Council also questioned the legitimacy of Paglaum Basurero after it  allegedly already collected more than P2 million from business establishments through seminars on proper compliance with the City’s solid waste ordinance. 

The City Council requested the NGO, which was not accredited that time with the city, why it was collecting from business establishments and to furnish council members a list of establishments that paid the P750 registration fee it required.  The executive department, though, saw nothing wrong with what the NGO was doing.

In a separate interview yesterday, Francis Paragas, Paglaum Basurero chairman, belied the allegation that they are preying on the business establishments.

He said they are actually helping lessen the city’s burden of collecting non-segregated wastes from private and public schools, food chains, hotels, and many others.

Paragas also said they are not extorting money from the business establishments.

“We are not getting any amount (for profit) from them. Kaniadto libre kay duol ra man ang landfill sa Inayawan but kay sa Consolacion (town) na man i-dispose they have to shoulder the transportation expenses. We are just helping and assisting the city in the garbage collection,” he said.

The organization partnered with 22 educational institutions and business establishments since 2011 to collect garbage, with no monetary cost on their part.

The city Department of Public Services reportedly tapped the organization to do garbage hauling service.

But five days after the Inayawan landfill was shut down for good last January 15 due to environmental and health issues, the organization started to collect at least P400 a day from the establishments it entered into agreements with.

He said it  was just for the rent of a 10-wheeler truck, fuel, and driver’s fee totaling P4,000 a day. The amount is allegedly shared by 10 establishments so that each pays only P400 per collection and disposal.

In exchange for their service, Paragas said, they will take custody of the scraps and other recyclable materials like cans, papers, bottles, among others.

The money generated from the recyclables, he added, is used to pay the honoraria and tuition of 60 volunteers, who included mothers and students.

SWMB Chairman Janesis Ponce, on the other hand, said there is no existing ordinance that would specifically compel any interested private garbage haulers to first secure authority from the city government before they can offer their service to potential clients.

“In other words, absent such ordinance, the city government has no legal basis to grant or deny anyone, or any company for that matter, to engage in the business of hauling garbage,” Ponce said.

He said there is a need for the city council to come up with a legislative measure that would empower the city government to monitor and regulate the activities of private garbage haulers. This is to ensure what is hauled does not end up in our coasts, rivers, streams and creeks.

Yesterday, upon the motion of Carillo, the City Council also created a special committee to work with the executive department to address concerns on garbage.

The council has called for an executive session on February 20 to update the members on the city’s garbage disposal plan of action and to shed light on Paglaum Basurero’s collection of garbage fees.

Carillo also requested the executive department to implement the city’s solid waste management plan, saying garbage situation in the city is already at the level of a “crisis.”

Supporting his argument, trash has reportedly already overflowed at the storage area of Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center, resulting to a foul smell emanating from there  that threatens to health of patients and all those at the facility.

It was reported that for over a month now, the collection of general wastes (non-infectious, non-hazardous) has yet to return to its regular daily schedule at the hospital.

The foul smell from the garbage storage area has reportedly forced patients, watchers, visitors and even hospital personnel either  had to cover their noses or altogether avoid passing by the area, which is behind the communicable disease ward.

“We have been calling the DPS (Department of Public Services) that our garbage has not been collected and are starting to spill out of the storage area. Still, the trash remained uncollected. There were few times that their truck would come but since the truck is almost filled, they can only pick up a small portion of the piled garbage,” VSMMC Housekeeping Section Chief  Ma. Victoria Villarojo said. — /RHM (FREEMAN)

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