No single solution to Baguio’s garbage problem


Trash slide!

On August 27, 2011, the retaining wall of the Irisan dumpsite of Baguio City collapsed causing an avalanche of garbage sweep down to Asin Road, Tuba, Benguet. This killed 6 people and destroyed 3 houses and properties costing millions making it one of the most terrible disasters that has befallen the summer capital.

Baguio City government officials blamed the trash slide to the incessant rains brought by Typhoon Mina. According to reports, the amount of rainwater absorbed by the dump loosened the pile and added weight to the garbage mountain causing it to bear down.

People who resided just below the dumpsite had evacuated the area. Asin Road, where the bulk of the trash slide landed was closed for weeks, isolating the communities below. The nearby residents with only some shovels responded immediately to the rescue, recovery and initial clearing operations. It was on the second day that the barangay officers and the City Disaster and Coordinating Council (CDCC) with some heavy equipment went to the scene and built a temporary path on top of the heaps of stinking garbage breaking the isolation of the communities below.

The Baguio City health office on the other hand could but give anti-tetanus vaccines as added protection to the volunteers in the initial debris clearing work.

The residents of Asin and nearby barangays who had for more than a decade called for the stop of the use of the dumpsite renewed their, this time angry demand for its closure. Even as early as 2009 piles of trash were already seen spilling over the retaining wall especially when it rained. The residents of Irisan, Asin road Villages, and Tadiangan village even reported various ailments believed to have benn caused by the polluted air and emitted smoke from the dumpsite since 1970.


The findings of a the study conducted by University of the Philippines (UP) Professor Ofelia Giron in 1995 to 1996 show that effluents from the garbage contaminated the water source with Eschirichia-coli and methane gas and made the natural spring waters not fit for human consumption.

The residents even called for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to conduct inspection of their water sources and the surrounding area of the dumpsite in 2005. More than Two thousand people signed their petition to close down the dumpsite.

Sadly it looks like the Baguio City government waited for the garbage to pile up 30 feet high until the big trash slide.

Chair of the Senate Committee on Climate Change Loren Legarda visited the dumpsite a week after . She called on the City government to fully implement R.A 9003 of 2001. Legarda was reported to have suggested to Baguio City Mayor Mauricio G. Domogan to close the dumpsite and convert it into a park instead.

A case filed

Residents of barangay Tadiangan, Tuba decided to sue the City Government of Baguio for the damage caused by the slide in the municipality. They also decried the neglect of the city to the past complaints of Tuba in 1990 on the contamination of their underground water source. They attributed this to the Baguio garbage dump. The garbage effluents specially during rainy season seeps to the creeks downhill flowing to their water sources.

Tuba filed criminal, administrative, civil cases and a Writ of Kalikasan against Baguio city government before the Supreme Court. Benguet Congressman Ronald Cosalan, National Artist Benjamin Cabrera and other personalities and residents of Tuba were among the complainants.

A Writ of Kalikasan

On January 17, 2012, the Supreme Court issued a Writ of kalikasan with a Temporary Environmental Protection Order (TEPO) against the City Government of Baguio and its officials to stop the use of the dumpsite. Then on August 10, 2012, the SC also issued the consent decree to permanently close the Irisan Dumpsite as a garbage facility or even as a termporary staging point for the garbage to be hauled out of the city due to petitions and several organized protest actions taken by the residents and nearby barangays.

Public concern and discipline

During the time of Mayor Braulio Yaranon in 2005, high piles of uncollected waste were seen along the city streets because of the city’ strict implementation of the “No Segregation No Collection” Policy. He stood firm on the policy for each household to separate the biodegradable from non-biodegradable wastes before it is collected.

Garbage in plastic bags from the residences are brought to a designated area along the road for pick-up by the City’s garbage trucks. If the garbage collector sees that the garbage in the bag is not segregated it is left behind for the barangay to take care of. In many cases, the pile is left uncollected for several days.

The piling filthy eyesore and foul smell was thought to convince erring residents to segregate their garbage properly to facilitate disposal by the garbage collectors. It was not so, several barangay officers instead complained to the media about the uncollected garbage that opportunists took on as an issue to drum up blame on Yaranon.

Meanwhile, the city mobilized its environment office and general services to a citywide campaign for the proper disposition of garbage. It also appealed to the national leadership for an extension for the use of the city dumpsite while it searched for another area for the facility because national law had ordered the closure of all open dumpsites in line with international environmental conventions and standards.

By then Yaranon was suspended over a controversial case against the Jadewell parking company. His succesor, Mayor Rey Bautista and other local government units all over the country were warned by the DENR to stop the operations of their open 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 stink along the roads. Bautista then was forced to order the collection of all the uncollected garbage.

The city’s garbage was then hauled to Tarlac province. The city council also implemented Ordinance 94-2008 that provided P15 million for the rehabilitation of the Irisan open dump.

Buying trash machines

In 2010, the city government headed by Domogan purchased two units of Environmental Recycling System (ERS) machines worth 128 million pesos and struck an agreement with ProTech Machinery Corporation (Pro Tech) on the disposition of residual waste. The machines were said to convert biodegradable waste to organic fertilizers. They were installed at the Irisan dumpsite.

The Protech ERS required the allocation of space within the 5.2-hectare dump that can be utilized as depository for biodegrable wastes generated in the city for at least five months to reduce the volume of trash being hauled by private truckers to Capas, Tarlac.

Part of the contract was for the company to haul waste out of the city free of charge and the city was earn P2.6 million a month or P30 million a year from the fertilizers produced by the machine. But after the slide, ProTech has not complied with its commitment to haul out the city’s residual wastes which was part of the deal on the purchase of the two ERS machines.

Because of the failure of the two ERS machines, the city re-opened the dumpsite and rebuilt the retaining walls, built like a dam to contain the trash and prevent spillage. There was no open space for the garbage liquid to seep out of the walls. Even the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) who conducted a survey of the dump saw the possibility of the retaining wall’s collapse again.

Councilor Elmer Datuin proposed to city council to request Akio Shigeta, Japanese inventor of the super plasma decomposition or the Blackhole technology to present his creation to the council for a possible purchase.

The Blackhole on a demonstration was used by La Trinidad the past year. The technology was said to convert biodegradable and non-biodegradable wastes into ceramic ash. The blackhole technology breaks down the garbage without using fuel or electricity but two special magnets to generate plasma heat to transform waste into ash.

However, the expected performance of the Blackhole was not met. The proponents claimed that it can decompose 30 cubic meters of garbage or 10 tons of garbage a day but it demonstrated only about 3 or 4 tons. The Blackhole also requires many workers to manually transfer the garbage from the truck to the machine and the end-products was not decomposed or turned into ash, but was only compressed or squeezed. The proposal of Datuin was turned down and presently the city still relies on the ERS machines.

The government is still looking for an area for an Engineered Sanitary Landfill (ESL). Furthermore, negotiations is ongoing with officials of Urdaneta City, Pangasinan for the use of its ESL.

Baguio was eyeing Sitio Tabak in Ampucao despite DENR’s warning that developing a landfill in the area will contaminate the water source due to effluents seeping into the ground. Benguet Governor Nestor Fongwan, Itogon Mayor Oscar Camantiles, Ampucao village chief Eddie Amuasen and Baguio Mayor Mauricio Domogan hold the decision but the people did not allow the proposed ESL project to proceed. The people in the area also turned it down fearing the health hazards it might give the community and the damage it will cause to the environment which was already destroyed by the mining operations for many years.

Hunt for alternative

Non-government organizations as well as individuals acted on finding ways to help regreening the city which has been the cleanest city longtime ago and launched activities and forums regarding waste management and proposed alternatives at reducing wastes in the face of the city’s failed solutions and spending millions of pesos. These initiatives include:


Some groups proposed traditional ways to reduce waste specially for biodegradables. One is the “Ayyew” practice, people in the Cordillera region collect and reprocess leftover food and to feed to animals. Ayyew is a Cordilleran word meaning not to waste or “sayang” in Filipino.

Geraldine Cacho of the Tongtongan ti Umili-Metro Baguio (TTU-MB) proposed the practice of the “Ayyew” system be popularized. This traditionl household practice sees the maximization of wastes instead of just dumping it. Here, the unconsumed food is fed to the pigs.

A survey conducted in the city by TTU among 23 barangays noted that hog raising is a major source of income for the people. An adult pig consumes 15.8 kilos of food everyday, ten pigs consume 22,649 kilos. Multiplying the 23 barangays with the volume of consumption of each pig in a day, it will lessen garbage essentially.

Hograisers collects not only leftover foods in their neighborhood but also collect loads of vegetable trimmings and fruit peelings from the Baguio City market and even from the La Trinidad Trading Post.


Next is the Vermiculture or vermicomposting. The use of a particular specie of earthworm (African nightcrawlers) to aerate the soil, and convert organic matter into compost. They work faster than our ordinary local species. Aside from the compost, vermi worms also excrete “worm tea”, a very potent liquid fertilizer for use in farms and gardens.

These vermins are more voracious and help decompose organic materials faster by digesting them and their poop called vermicast or worm cast contains rich organic nutrients which can improve the texture and fertility of soil. A healthy worm will consume up to its own weight of food a day although typically it only eats half of its body weight. Their food, organic material waste, will be processed into healthy, pathogen free, nutrient rich castings.

A lot of the stuff that usually gets thrown away in the kitchen is brilliant food for worms: vegetable peelings, carrot tops, bits and pieces from salads and virtually any other vegetable matter can be fed to these worms. The worms also feed on paper and cardboard boxes. This reduces waste, carbon footprint and recycles rubbish into a valuable product.

The worms double in population every few months. Under good conditions within a year, 1,000 worms should multiply to about 12,000 worms and within two years you could have over a million.

Ban the use of plastic bags

Third is the proposed Ordinance 26 or the “Baguio City Paper Ordinance” banning use of plastic bags. People going to market will now have to bring along rattan baskets and containers made of paper, buri and other biodegradable materials. Plastic bag sellers at the city market will also now have to shift to peddling “bayong” and other “green bags”. Establishments are also required to use biodegradable plastic bags or paper bags.

One of the barangays in the city already implemented the plastic ban. Barangay Guisad spearheaded by Barangay Captain Fredie Bayasen stopped the use of plastic bags in his jurisdiction. Residents are advised to use bayong or paper bags to carry purchased products from the stores or the market.

Punishment against violators. While in the central business district, penalties for non-complying establishments includes fines: P1,000 for the first offense, 2nd offense at P2,500 and 3rd offense at P5,000 and suspension of business permit for three months. Business Permits of habitual offenders will not be renewed.

The Ordinance 26 was passed on June 25, 2007 and has just been made effective this January.

Hopes are high that traditional ways of managing the garbage could contribute to solve the problem of the city. The millions worth of functional technology used properly could also really help reduce the garbage in the city.

The solution to the garbage problem cannot be found only in the millions of pesos the city government is spending for temporary remedies like hauling it out, and purchasing machines believed to help but later turn out useless. These can only add up to the problem. It can still be in the political will of officials to serve their constituents well and not on how to collect more kickback, it is also in the discipline of each and every member of the community to reduce waste and not to generate more. #


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