On garbage collection and more
OFF TANGENT - Aven Piramide (The Freeman) - July 18, 2019 - 12:00am

On his very first day in office, Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella, greeted us, his constituency, with his first glaringly most heartwarming announcement. He directed the Department of Public Services to collect the garbage and clean up the city. His pronouncement was so very important that, the following day, it became headline news and the main topic of our more notable opinion makers. I surmised though that the mayor was goaded to making that directive amidst the perception, nay call it rumor, that some people close to the former city chief executive were deliberately littering waste all over the city in the last few days of his regime. Indeed people (not excluding me) thought that the increasing piles of garbage seen on the sidewalks of major streets, were not collected purposely to embarrass the new mayor.

 Few days later, the rains came. No low pressure area was detected. The down pour was not sustained. Weather men called the condition as scattered thunderstorm. But, flash floods, just the same, hit many parts of the city. Why? According to environmentalists and common observers, uncollected garbage and other forms of waste silted the river beds heavily thereby reducing drastically the volume of flowing water they could carry. With the city’s rivers and esteros severely clogged, the otherwise natural flow of water got impeded. Flooding, as an inevitable consequence, resulted.

 The challenge posed to the new city administration is not difficult to discern. Collecting garbage while a daunting problem is but only a step towards a holistic solution to the recurring floods. To me, this is largely political. Here is why i say so. When Vice Mayor Michael Rama was the city’s chief executive, years ago, he implemented an honest-to-goodness garbage collection program. But he did not stop there. He wanted to clear the river banks. In his scheme, the houses built by informal settlers had to be removed. This was supposedly to be followed by the dredging of the waterways. Unfortunately, his political foes did not want him to succeed. Rama was sued by the henchmen of his electoral adversary and the court action stymied his efforts.

The directive given by Mayor Labella to the Department of Public Services to conduct massive efforts to collect the city’s waste is a right move. We deserve this service because the Osmeña administration failed us on this score. Then, in these early months of his mayorship, Labella has to push the demolition of all illegal structures that are built on the river banks. There are concrete buildings owned by wealthy families that also intrude some stretches of this public domain. Let him uphold the legal easements without discrimination. Whether owned by millionaires or the pauper, all such structures have to be dismantled. None should be spared. The mayor should not hesitate, not even blink at the threat of losing the political support of affected building owners. Rather, he must understand that dredging our rivers and removing those structures standing on the banks are acts designed to achieve the  ultimate good of the majority. When the riverbeds are deepened and the impediments to water flow removed, flooding can be prevented. What can be better than a flood free city!

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