DENR rejects Payatas coop call to reopen landfill

Despite calls from some Payatas residents, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) insisted that there is no way it would allow the Quezon City Sanitary Landfill (QCSLF) to be reopened.

In a recent dialogue with representatives of the Payatas Alliance Recyling Exchange (PARE) Cooperative, DENR officials maintained that the decision to close down the landfill due to numerous environmental violations and susceptibility to trash slide was already final.

PARE, whose members are mostly scavengers and junkshop owners, appealed to the DENR to reconsider its decision for the sake of the 2,000 families who rely on the landfill for their livelihood.

But DENR officials led by Undersecretary Noel Felongco said the agency was left with no choice but to shut down the Payatas landfill.

Felongco noted that the QCSLF had reached overcapacity and the leachate already flowed through the Marikina River, which is in violation of environmental laws, particularly Republic Act No. 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act.

He said that while RA 9003 provides that there should be waste segragation at source and only residuals are to be brought to landfills, the same was not the case of QCSLF because it was loaded with mixed garbage.

Eligio Ildefonso, chief engineer at the Solid Waste Management Division of the Environmental Management Bureau and executive director of the National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC), said "there was no technical basis for the DENR to allow the reopening of the Payatas landfill."

He, however, agreed on the need to help the people whose only source of income will be affected by the landfill's permanent closure.

"The DENR looks after the technical aspect, including the environment and the welfare of the people, while the Quezon City government handles the social aspect like providing alternative livelihood to those who will be displaced by the closure," Ildefonso said.

"Let us all work together to find a solution to this problem," he added.

Ildefonso said that PARE members will not immediately lose their source of livelihood because they may still benefit from the planned rehabilitation of the landfill.

Earlier in August, the DENR turned down the request of the Quezon City government to allow the QCSLF to reopen until December this year.

In its report, the EMB said that "violations of existing environmental laws and their existing rules and regulations were committed" by the landfill's operator, IPM Environmental Services Inc.

A separate report by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau showed that the landfill was "highly susceptible to trash slide" based on its geomorphological and environmental assessments.

The DENR consequently directed IPM to refrain from dumping solid waste within the QCSLF and begin its rehabilitation of the landfill as soon as possible.

It also ordered IPM to immediately submit its detailed Safe Closure and Rehabilitation Plan, which will be evaluated by the EMB-National Capital Region and the NSWMC. ###