A simmering discontent over the stench emanating from an area designated as a craft village but converted into an open dump site boiled into public anger as residents threw their support behind a complaint filed before the Office of the Environmental Ombudsman.
Augustin Cloribel, a resident of Barangay (village) Lourdes, Panglao accused Mayor Leonila Montero of violations under Republic Act (RA) 9003 known as the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000 and RA 7160 or the Local Government Code of 1991.
The manifesto of the concerned barangay residents confirmed Cloribel’s allegation calling for the immediate closure of the dump site which reportedly were the cause of disease, the swarm of flies from the piles of garbage and the possible contamination of ground water which 90% of the water source of the municipality comes from Lourdes.
Twenty five residents, concerned citizens and community leaders affixed their signatures in a three page joint manifesto and petition strongly condemning Montero for turning an area intended as a craft village for livelihood projects into mountains of garbage left to pile up in their barangay.
The dump site is located at the rear of the former craft village and is operating allegedly without an environmental clearance from the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) or any attached agencies, according to the complaint.
An open dump, according to RA 9003 shall refer to a disposal area wherein the solid wastes are indiscriminately thrown or disposed of without due planning and consideration for environmental and health standards.
Despite numerous complaints from local residents and barangay officials, Montero turned a deaf ear and blatantly continued to operate the open dump site, according to Cloribel and the residents.
The dumping site in Lourdes has raised a big question among barangay residents – why us?.
The choice of Barangay Lourdes among the ten barangays as the site of the town’s garbage dump has baffled the residents since their barangay was chosen by then Congressman, now Governor Edgar Chatto as the center of livelihood learning through the establishment of a craft village.
The open dump site has caused misery to the residents and surrounding environment and has come under public attack from a once timid and silent suffering community.
A certification from the Sangguniang Barangay (SB), village council of Lourders signed by Barangay Captain (village chief) Alejandro Mijares confirmed the existence of the dump site “for so many years now”.
Mijares lashed out at the “growing number of garbage is not properly dispose and segregated”.
The mounting garbage that are illegally dumped daily in their barangay “remains there like a mountain and it’s odor can cause diseases”, added Mijares.
Cloribel further accused Montero of her failure to close the dumpsite despite numerous complaints from local residents and barangay officials.
Montero, according to Cloribel, through her negligence exposed the lives of residents and general public to adverse health effects, degradation and pollution of the area where the dump site is located,
The seven page complaint-affidavit was mailed to the Ombudsman by Cloribel on July 19, 2016 to Gerard Mosquera, Officer-in-charge of the Environmental Ombudsman.
Mosquera, under its mandate, shall handle complaints filed against any public officials directed to protect the environment where the act complained of appears to be illegal, unjust, improper or inefficient.
According to Cloribel, since the assumption of office of Montero as mayor of Panglao on July, 2013 “allowed the operation of an open dumpsite in Barangay Lourdes” and “gave her very own imprimatur on the illegal operation of the open dumpsite”.
The role of the LGU’s in solid waste management shall be primarily responsible for the implementation and enforcement of the provisions of RA 9003 within their respective jurisdiction.
Panglao which draws tourists from around the world to its beaches is also the site of the P7.7 billion New Bohol Airport Construction and Sustainable Environmental Protection Project.
RA 9003 strictly prohibits the establishment and operations of open dump sites by any person, including the LGU’s.
Cloribel, in his complaint asked the Environmental Ombudsman for the preventive suspension of Montero, charge her criminally and administratively and to further conduct a thorough investigation of the open dump site in Barangay Lourdes.
Senator Loren Legarda, author of RA 9003 lamented that complaints has to be filed against LGU’s for their lack of political will to do their duty of implementing the law. (Chito M. Visarra)