By DELIA BAGNI and KIMBERLIE NGABIT-QUITASOL
ITOGON, Benguet — Itogon officials asked the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to reconsider disallowing construction of an Engineered Sanitary Landfill (ESL) in Sitio Tapak, Barangay Ampucao because it falls within a protected area.
In 2012, then DENR Cordillera Director Clarence Baguilat wrote Benguet and Baguio officials that the ESL project cannot be allowed because it falls within the Lower Agno Watershed Forest Reservation (LAWFR) which is a protected area under the National Integrated Protected Area System (NIPAS).
Councilor Arnel Bahingawan, raised that a tailings pond was constructed in the same area during a press conference on September 9.
“Itogon needs an ESL but it was disallowed because it falls within a watershed how come that a big mining company was allowed to build a tailings pond in the same area,” Bahingawan said.
Bahingawan further said that existing conflicting environmental laws should be reconciled. He explained that while the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act requires local governments to ensure proper waste disposal facilities the NIPAS is not allowing them to utilize their land for this purpose.
Bahingawan said the Itogon council passed a resolution asking the Biodiversity Management Bureau (formerly Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau) to reconsider their position regarding the ESL construction in Ampucao in July and they are still awaiting a response.
Mayor Victorio Palangdan pointed out that the Waste Management Act compels local government units to construct an ESL among others and provides penalties for failure to do so.
“We want to comply but the restrictions of NIPAS is hindering us,” he said.
Palangdan said this restriction is one of the reasons why the town is requesting the DENR to remove Itogon from NIPAS protection. He added that over 90% of his town is declared a protected area through NIPAS.
Palangdan said a temporary garbage containment area is established at Barangay Virac. He said should the Virac temporary containment area be filled before an ESL is constructed there are two temporary areas in Antamok and Tuding villages.
The Itogon council passed Resolution 234 asking DENR to remove Itogon from the coverage of NIPAS. The said resolution cited that barangays Tinongdan, Loacan, Gumatdang, Ampucao and Dalupirip also passed council resolutions seeking exclusion from NIPAS coverage.
Bahingawan said they are seeking exclusion from NIPAS coverage to allow development projects in their town given that almost the entire land area of Itogon falls within a protected area.
“Seeking exclusion from NIPAS does not mean that we do not want to protect our environment because we have local laws and customary laws for the protection of our natural resources,” he said.
Senior Environment Management Engineer Specialist Benigno Apidos said that the municipality picks up five tons of mixed solid wastes from barangays Tuding, Poblacion, Ucab, Ampucao and Gumatdang per day.
He said other barangays have their own containment and MRS.
Apidos said the one hectare temporary waste facility in Virac started operating in 2014. He said given the present garbage collection the Virac facility can be used until 2018. # nordis.net