From under this hat: How to hide a garbage dump

By KATHLEEN OKUBO
www.nordis.net

Last weekend, on assignment, I had the opportunity to visit Cabugao, Ilocos Sur with some colleagues. While being shown around the town and asking questions about the town, I thought that maybe Baguio of the mid 50’s would have been like the Cabugao of today.

For Baguio that time, it did have a central city plan, the one made by Architect Daniel Burnham in 1905 to carry a population of some 20-25 thousand only. Baguio had a town-wide sewerage system wanting repair but working; a garbage disposal system which was composed of well placed garbage bins; a few garbage trucks but well organized collection system; a holding space and a large incinerator at what is still called Sanitary camp.

There also was a well-maintained drainage system that kept the roads from becoming rivers during heavy rain. An organized zone system for housing, schools, business center, government center, cemetery with an open chapel and crematorium, and an industrial zone. In the 50s, it still had traces of its original forest foliage and re-growth because the American lumber companies had already logged-out most the original forest long long ago when they had just colonized the country.

Unlike Baguio, Cabugao was founded in 1781, that is 228 years ago. It must have been declared as a town by then the Spanish colonial government as Baguio has been chartered, planned and created by the American colonial rule only a hundred years ago. The old Cabugao center is set up like the typical Spanish-time hamlet: the church, municipio, market, school, cemetery, and the houses of the towns people around it.

I was told by our kind, generous and so knowledgeable hosts that Cabugao had some 20 to 30 thousand people living in an area of approximately 100 hectares. It is subdivided into 33 barangays, 4 of which are relatively urban and the rest considered rural – and a rather healthy-green coastal countryside. Warm climate like the most of the Philippines. Livelihood is basically farming rice and vegetables, cattle raising, piggery, fowl and goats, and sea fishing. They also believed that it is likely that every family here would have a member or two somewhere in the US of A or “abroad”.
Considering the average birth rate vis-a-vis’ their death rate, migration and in-migration to this beautiful and promising place, Cabugao would likely have its population full to its seams soon. Traffic is not yet a problem, nor is housing, water and power supply unlike this city, my home, which has grown some 10 times its projected capacity and to top it, led by a more streetwisened bunch of politicians.

If there is a lesson from the building of Baguio, I believe it would be an added and great advantage for Cabugao to have a centralized development plan that would respond to the needs and visions of its people. As its population grows, as their lifestyle flourishes and life standards develop, their garbage will grow in volume from year to year, it will just keep piling up and not go away. The disposal of the refuse must always consider the water table, the people downstream, the air we all breathe, the sights we admire. . . the children, and the environment.

I saw the garbage dump in Cabugao which has recently been expanded to cover some ten hectares. It looked like the beginning of the Irisan dump site of Baguio. When somebody complained of the ugly sight and the stench, the local local government there bought a bulldozer and pushed the garbage downhill, as if to hide it. By pushing the garbage downhill, the garbage went nearer a small community, covering some of their rice fields and portions of a nearby brook. The community raised their brows and the town’s head bought the affected area expanding the dumpsite.

The problem is not that affected community or the complaining people. The problem is the garbage dumping system of which the local government is responsible for. Seepage from this dumpsite will definitely affect the water sources – the adjacent brook and deep wells, and the bugs and flies, the poison and the stench! By the looks of it at the dump, garbage segregation is not yet sufficiently done. Walking into the dump I noticed broken glass strewn, a flashlight battery, a lot of garden cleanings and debris along with the piles of plastic bags and sheets.

The local government of Cabugao can do better than covering up or bulldozing the town’s waste down hill to keep their Cleanest and Greenest town award. Equally responisble are the town’s people. If you want to know how garbage should not be handled come study the very expensive solid waste disposal system now practiced in Baguio. The city generates some 120 – 150 tons of garbage daily. Cabugao generates 20-25 tons. It is to the advantage of all (including a simple visitor like me) that we study and place an efficient, economical, practical and sustainable disposal plan for the town to implement now before it grows into an uncontrollable and expensive monstrosity as what the City of Baguio faces now. Prove in all honesty that the town, both its citizens and its political leaders, deserves the Clean and Green hall of fame and that it is not just another garbage award. Intayo idiay Cabugao!

Thank you very much to our hosts and colleagues in Cabugao especially for the added insights and lessons of the visit, we look forward to visit again.

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Bienvenida Eman. With pride and all our prayers for a safe, comfortable, and secure, opportunity ridden travel, we send off one of our sons to work abroad. With his parents, we pray he gets to enjoy and learn more of this world and bring that knowledge home for the good of his people too. Bien viaje.# nordis.net

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