Ombudsman probes local gov’t execs over illegal dump sitesFebruary 10, 2016
The Office of the Ombudsman on Wednesday officially started its probe of around 600 local government officials throughout the country over illegal dump sites and other violations of the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000.
During the ceremonial filing of affidavit-complaints of the National Solid Waste Management Commission at the Ombudsman central office, the complainants led by commissioner Romeo Hidalgo of the Ecowaste Coalition said the officials violated Republic Act No. 9003.
A total of 50 complaints were filed, covering local officials in 50 local government units over 13 administrative regions.
The complainants said mayors, vice mayors, and local legislative officials “conspired in committing the violations of R.A. No. 9003,” noting that they have “the mandate to establish policies and having control over the funds of the city.”
“Ang daming batas na magaganda pero walang nangyayari,” an emotional Hidalgo said after taking oath before the ceremonial filing.
(There are many good laws to implement but nothing happens.)
According to R.A. 9003, “no dump sites shall be established and operated, nor any practice or disposal of solid waste by any person, including LGUs (local government units), which constitutes the use of open dumps for solid wastes, be allowed after the effectivity of this Act, every LGU shall convert its open dumps to controlled dumps.”
Noting that waste management is a “staple government service,” Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales vowed to act on the complaints with firmness.
“Nature has accorded humanity with everything beautiful but humanity has willfully destroyed it… Cleanliness gauges the degree of civilization of society yet people still disrespect Mother Nature,” Morales said.
“We assure you that we will firmly act on your complaints consistent with the law and internal rules as well as due process,” she added.
Sen. Loren Legarda, principal author of the law and chair of the Senate committee on climate change, admitted that “we are still far from 100 percent compliance rate” even after 15 years since the law was passed.
“It was in 1998 as a first-term senator when I passed the act. It was in January 2001 when it was finally signed, and I thought as naive and optimistic as I was… I thought it was immediate overnight and magic,” said Legarda, who attended the ceremonial filing.
“When you enact law in this country, it’s just a recommendation and that’s where my frustration came in,” she added.
Legarda said 15 years was “too long a grace period” for compliance, especially that there were LGUs in areas notorious for illegal dump sites that were able to comply.
However, the lady senator expressed hope that the upcoming national elections in May would advance environmental issues in the national agenda.
“It is also my hope that as the campaign period started yesterday, I hope all our candidates would refrain from posting their paraphernalia on trees, heritage buildings and public infrastructure,” Legarda added.
The filing was part of the Environmental Ombudsman’s program launched in 2013, in coordination with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ Environmental Management Bureau. The Ombudsman launched a three-year campaign “to increase awareness of, and promote voluntary compliance with R.A. No. 9003,” directing LGUs to conduct “respective self-assessment as to their compliance status and to voluntarily implement corrective actions.”
Also present in the filing were Overall Deputy Ombudsman Melchor Carandang, Environmental Ombudsman and Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon Gerard Mosquera, lawyer and environmental advocate Antonio Oposa Jr., and representatives from Zero Waste Coalition, Mother Earth Foundation Inc. and Philippine Center for Investigative for Journalism.