Cimatu urges LGUs to prioritize solid waste management

Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu has urged local government units (LGUs) to make solid waste management a top priority amid worsening garbage collection and disposal problem throughout the country.

"LGUs are duty-bound to comply with the existing law on solid waste management," Cimatu said. "The law provides that the primary responsibility in the implementation of waste segregation and disposal at source is lodged with the LGUs."

The environment chief issued the statement after meeting with board members of the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines (ULAP), an umbrella organization of elected government officials from provincial down to the barangay levels, last Friday.

ULAP sought guidance from Cimatu on the implementation of Republic Act No. 9003, or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000, which mandates the setting-up of engineered sanitary landfill facilities.

Some LGUs find it difficult to comply with the law as building and maintaining sanitary landfills can be costly.

A sanitary landfill is a solid waste management facility that utilizes an engineered method of land disposal, primarily for municipal solid wastes. An "engineered" method of landfilling means that garbage is handled at a disposal facility that is designed, constructed and operated in a manner protective of public health and the environment.

Cimatu said that effective solid waste management may be expensive, but LGUs are not without options.

He suggested that LGUs pool their resources to set up a common sanitary landfill. "Adjacent municipalities or cities may cluster together and pool their resources to establish sanitary landfills," he said.

If lack of funds is a problem, Cimatu said the LGUs may avail of government loans, particularly the one being offered by the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) under its green financing program.

"DBP is willing to provide financial and technical assistance to LGUs in implementing environment projects, including solid waste management," Cimatu said.

"LGUs can come up with a scheme to pay back the loan, such as through collection of tipping fees," he added.

Cimatu also called on LGUs to be innovative in finding solutions to their respective garbage woes, with the end in view of protecting not only the environment but also the health of their constituents.

As for the DENR, Cimatu said the agency continuously promotes alternative waste management practices, particularly 3Rs -- reuse, reduce and recycle -- which help cut back the amount of trash that ends up in landfills.

"Our landfills can only hold so much garbage. The 3Rs model remains the most reliable and useful strategy for efficient and effective management of solid waste," Cimatu said.

Likewise, Cimatu said the DENR has been actively implementing its waste-to-energy (WTE) policy, as laid down in a resolution issued by the National Solid Waste Management Commission last year.

The DENR currently undertakes a technical cooperation project with the Japanese government on the use of advanced WTE technologies, through thermal processes that eliminate incinerators. The cities of Quezon, Cebu and Davao have been chosen as pilot sites for the project.

At the same time, Cimatu said the DENR is willing to extend technical assistance to LGUs in crafting solid waste management plans and putting in place environmentally acceptable technology for solid waste disposal. ###