By ADELA WAYAS
Long time ago, this city was green clean, with untainted roads and streets, and fresh air to breathe. But then the garbage piled up and remains a constant problem of Baguio that until now is unresolved.This city of Pines was planned for about 25,000 people; but more and more people kept coming in this city without control or added service. Aggressive development and human activities have contributed to forming a mountain of garbage dumped in Irisan. According to the present mayor, the city is collecting a total of 160 tons of waste per day.
During the time of then Mayor Braulio Yaranon, piles of waste were seen along the city streets and roads. It became an eyesore as well as an irritant because of the foul smell.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources passed an ultimatum, at the time of former Mayor Reinaldo Bautista Jr, to all local government units all over the country to stop the operations of their dump sites. The garbage problem of the city became worse. Wastes were not totally collected in all areas of the city. The people were complaining of the stinky roadsides where the wastes were placed for collection.
Because of the closure of the Irisan dump site, the city has to look for another landfill area. Many areas have been cited as possible landfills but the locales did not allow a garbage dump in their communnity. The city spent millions hauling the city waste and dumping it at Capas, Tarlac.
Recently, the city government bought two Environmental Recovery System (ERS) machines, P64 million each, from Pro Tech company. The machines came all the way from Japan. Some city officials and representatives were sent to Malabon and Japan to investigate the actual process of the machine.
According to Mayor Mauricio Domogan, the ERS machines could solve the garbage problem of the city and could even give profit by means of the fertilizer produce being processed by the machine. But as of press time, one of the ERS machines is not operational. Domogan said that a part of the motor of the machine was damaged and has to get replacement.
Stinky and dangerous
The dump site was closed because of the barricade of the people in Irisan. The dump site for others is their livelihood but the health of the many children, men and women at the area is at risk.
“Nu kalkalkalen da iti basura, rumwar iti naangot ket napudot iti sang-aw na,” said Janet Dalio, a resident beside the dump site. She shared that her family is experiencing stomach aches and breathing problems because of the foul smell coming from the dump site. In our 20 years of residency here, she added, the smell is becoming worse especially when it is hot.
Janet related their story when they joined the barricade. She said that only a few of them joined the barricade because others do not like to loose their work. It has been victorious that time when we were able to stop the bringing in of waste in the area, she added.
Disaster waiting to happen
She also fears that the retaining wall would break under the piling weight of garbage and would cover the houses below the dump site. She said that during rainy days they are always in fear that the an avalanche of waste would bury their houses. During the typhoon Pepeng, she said the retaining wall cracked.
Shiela Mae Untalan, 17, said the plastics from the dump site are blown by the wind uphill which adds to the litter scattered on the roadside. We always have to keep cleaning our surrounding, she said. Shiela added that even their laundered clothes smell like garbage.
The “pickers” and the “sorters” at the dump site do not seem to realize the risk in their jobs. Their children are also exposed to the workplace as they tag along to carry the recyclable waste that their mother or father has sorted and bring it to the junk shop nearby.
Since the ERS machines were stationed in the area, the city has started dumping garbage again. During a press conferences and other media briefings, City mayor Domogan said that the two ERS machines can convert biodegradable waste to high grade fertilizer. The capacity of the two machines is 24 tons each only of biodegradeable waste processed per day, far from the 160 tons of waste that the city is collecting per day of which 66% is biodegradeable.
Who generates more waste?
In a traditional knowledge journal (www.tk-network.blogspot.com), shows that “indigenous migrants to Baguio City are bearers of traditional knowledge and cultures with extremely light ecological footprints… before recycling became the rage, indigenous peoples had mastered the art of zero waste management, making optimum use of resources at hand.”
This was supported by Gerry Cacho of the Organi-sasyon dagiti Nakurapay nga Umili ti Syudad (ORNUS) who said that the rural and urban poor people are the ones accused by the local government as generating the garbage problem. She however says that these people are the ones helping in mitigating the problem.
She cited that the poor are the one scavenging even at night to collect recyclables. They are the ones who reuse these waste from big or small establishments. They convert the trash into useful products.
Plastics wrappers from junk food are converted by individuals and cooperatives into wallets, bags and decorations. News papers and magazines are used to make baskets and beads.
Cacho said that the poor should not be blamed to be aggravating the garbage problem. Small hog growers collect the “ubbak” or the vegetable cleanings from the trading post and market, and left-overs from restaurants, hotels and food chains, she added.
Hog manure is also utilized to produce biogas. The journal explained that “biogas technology, also known as anaerobic digestion, turns waste matter into energy. All kinds of organic wastes, including animal manure and garden wastes, are placed into a digester. There, the wastes are decomposed by bacteria, and produce methane gas that is channeled for fuel.”
“The multiple benefits of biogas technology include: savings on cooking fuel, turning refuse into resource, sanitation measure for backyard piggery, elimination of bad odors and pollution generated from raising animals, better relations with neighbors, and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.”
“The government should be enlightened and should support these kind of activities of the poor in alleviating the garbage problem. We have a very good waste management system but the city does not recognize it nor support these little ways,” she added.
A man residing near the dumpsite, who requested anonymity, said government should invest towards lessening the solid waste in the city. He said that there are more solid waste than biodegradable waste. “Konti lang naman ang biodegradable hindi katulad ng solid waste na karamihan ay nanggagaling sa mga malls at grocery stores,” he said. According to him, most of the dumped waste are plastics from malls and toxic materials from Texas Instrument and Moog Controls Corporation.
It seems that big companies in the city do have their own garbage mechanisms to help in waste management. These business establishments should stop hauling their waste here, he said. “The government’s action to re-open the dump site is a mistake.” He said that the retaining wall is not a guarantee that the houses are secured from the possible slide.
Political Will, the power of the people
Janet Dalio said the government should stop hauling garbage at the dump site. She is hopeful that the government would keep their promise and look for an alternate landfill area. She said the people of Irisan should be united against the dumpsite.
The problem of garbage is not just the problem of the people in Irisan. Everyone is responsible for alleviating it.
Cacho said the government should support the solution of the people.
According to her the millions of pesos that the city is spending for garbage is also a waste of money and effort. She said if the traditional knowledge is recognized and practiced by the people, the city would go back to being greener and being a healthy city.
A clean and healthy environment is what we can pass on to our children. The call to end the problem is very simple said Cacho “waste management is a mass movement and must be given attention to be organized as such.” # nordis.net