DENR keen to extend technical support to LGUs on closure of illegal dumpsites

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is willing to extend technical assistance to local government units (LGUs) to help them get rid of illegal dumpsites that pose significant threats to the environment and public health.

"We are here to help the LGUs comply with the law that strictly bans all forms of open dumping," DENR Secretary Roy A. Cimatu said, referring to Republic Act No. 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000.

Cimatu said the DENR, through its Environmental Management Bureau (EMB), would closely coordinate with LGUs in the formulation of closure plans for these dumpsites.

“As partners for change with LGUs, the DENR will ensure the protection of the environment and well-being of the people,” Cimatu said.

He added that the EMB was also ready to provide technical advice to LGUs in coming up with their respective 10-year solid waste management plans, as mandated by RA 9003.

The 17-year-old law provides the legal framework for the country's systematic and comprehensive ecological solid waste management program that ensures the protection of public health and the environment.

It underscores, among other things, the need to create institutional mechanisms and incentives, as well as imposes penalties for acts in violation of any of its provisions.) 

Under the DENR guidelines, cities and municipalities are required to come up with a closure plan for illegal dumpsites, which include site clearing, relocation of informal settlers living within the area, site grading and stabilization of critical slopes, application and maintenance of soil cover, and leachate management.

Provincial environment and natural resources offices (PENROs) and community environment and natural resources offices (CENROs) are tasked to reach out to LGUs before, during and after the closure of illegal dumpsites.

During post-closure, PENROs and CENROs will continue the monitoring and update the existing database on open dumpsites.

The DENR will also reinforce programs, such as the establishment of materials recovery facilities or MRFs and the conversion of waste to energy to aid in resolving waste disposal issues.

According to a study conducted by the National Solid Waste Management Commission, every person living in Metro Manila produces 0.7 kilogram of waste daily.

With an estimated population of 13 million, the total waste generated in the metropolis could run up to 9,200 metric tons (MT) per day; 276,900 MT per month, or 3.3 million MT per year.

Insects and pests in open dumpsites are disease vectors, while leachate from solid waste can contaminate groundwater tables and surface waters.

Methane gases from dumpsites could affect the health of exposed populations and contribute to global warming. ### 

Wounded forester receives top DENR honors on National Heroes Day

An employee of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), who was shot and wounded by a suspected illegal logger in Palawan province last August 23, received the highest commendation from Secretary Roy A. Cimatu on Monday, the same day the country marked National Heroes Day.

Cimatu awarded Joselito Eyala, a forester at the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) in Puerto Princesa City, the Medalya ng Bayani ng Kalikasan for his "remarkable dedication to public service, bravery and leadership."

"It is my honor to give you this award, especially during National Heroes Day," Cimatu said during his visit to Eyala at the Philippine General Hospital (PGH), where the forester was awaiting surgery to remove bullets lodged in his palate and back.

"Gusto kong malaman mo na nagpapasalamat ako sa ginawa mo at hindi ka pababayaan ng DENR," Cimatu said. "Kailangan namin ang mga katulad mo sa serbisyo."

Cimatu, a former military chief, also awarded Eyala with a Purple Heart, an honor usually given to soldiers wounded in the line of duty.

He likewise commended the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippine Air Force personnel who airlifted Eyala from Palawan to Manila and brought him to the PGH on August 25.

Aside from the commendation, Cimatu informed Eyala that he has just been promoted from Forester I to Forester II with an increase in salary grade.

The environment chief also assured Eyala that the DENR will shoulder all his hospital expenses and that he will receive financial assistance to aid him in his recovery.

Based on initial reports, the shooting incident happened when Eyala and his team apprended suspected timber poachers and confiscated an unregistered chainsaw in the mountainous village of Bacungan at around 5 pm on August 23.

The owner of the chainsaw, Florante Saycon, retaliated by firing a homemade gun that hit Eyala in the back. The forester sustained two gunshot wounds that rendered him unconscious.

When he regained consciousness, Eyala crawled into the Casicaan River and allowed the current to carry him for five hours. He then walked and crawled in the middle of the night until he was able to get help at around 1 am of the following day.

A farmer brought Eyala on a carabao sled to barangay coucilor Daniel Anjan, who then took him to the Palawan Adventist Hospital.

Eyala's three other companions, forest ranger Roldan Alvarez and forest technicians Roy Mercader and Glenn Dexter Eleazar, scampered for safety as Saycon chased them.

Mercader hid in the river for seven hours, while Alvarez and Eleazar sought cover in the bush the whole night. They were found at the Bacungan barangay hall at around 8 am on August 24.

Meanwhile, DENR Mimaropa regional director Natividad Bernardino said Eyala's promotion takes effect immediately.

"This is the least we can do to express our appreciation to Lito (Eyala's nickname) for his commitment to live up to his duty as a protector of the forest and our environment," Bernardino said.

Eyala, who was still having difficulty speaking, appeared overwelmed and almost teary-eyed when he gave a thumbs-up sign.

Bernardino said that due recognition will also be given to other members of Eyala's team.

The DENR is now preparing to file criminal charges against Saycon, who is now under the custody of the Philippine National Police in Puerto Princesa City after he was arrested during a followup operation on August 24.

Cimatu wanted the CENRO to charge Saycon with violation of Republic Act No. 9175 or the Chainsaw Act of 2002 and other forestry laws, aside from the attempted murder or homicide to be filed by Eyala. ### 

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