Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje said the DENR has already linked up with the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the Office of the Ombudsman to put to task local government units (LGUs) in addressing the burgeoning garbage problem in their respective localities.

At the same time, Paje also asked all provincial governors, through the League of Provinces of the Philippines, in providing the necessary assistance to the LGUs under their jurisdiction to enable them to comply with the provisions of Republic Act 9003, otherwise known as the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act.

“We are already working closely with DILG and the Ombudsman to resolve this issue of low, if not non-compliance of local chief executives, to the requirements of the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act,” Paje explained to members of Ecowaste Coalition, a group of non-government organizations advocating the 3R’s in solid waste management, namely reduce, re-use and recycle.

The group staged a protest at the DENR Monday (Sept. 5) calling for the immediate closure and rehabilitation of all dumpsites in the country in light of the recent trash slide that occurred in the Irisan dump in Baguio City.

Paje, who also chairs the National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC), said that the DENR has already issued 435 final notices to LGUs nationwide that continue to operate open and controlled dumpsites, in violation of RA 9003 which has set the deadline for the closure of all open and controlled dumpsites in 2004.

Relative to this, Paje said the Office of the Ombudsman has also issued Subpoena Duces Tecum to LGUs that were sent with final notices by the DENR.

Paje said such twin moves is “a step closer to filing administrative charges against non-compliant LGU officials under RA 7160 or the Local Government Code, and send out a signal to those who continue to ignore the risks to their own constituents’ health and property.”

“Sec. Robredo has, in fact, issued already a memorandum to all local chief executives and Sangguniang president officers and members to observe the enforcement and implementation of RA 9003, warning them that failure to comply shall subject the officials to administrative sanctions,” Paje stressed.

The DENR has also written Mindoro Governor Alfonso Umali Jr., who heads the League of Provinces of the Philippines, and all the country’s governors requesting that they provide the necessary assistance to LGUs to enable them to comply, particularly on the safe closure and rehabilitation of its open and controlled disposal facilities, as well as their final disposal facilities/technologies.

“We sought the assistance of the League of Provinces because, under the law, it is a member of the National Solid Waste Management Commission,” Paje said.

In his letter to the governors, Paje reminded them of their responsibility in putting up a Provincial Solid Waste Management Board whose functions include developing and implementing a provincial solid waste management plan; providing logistical and operational support to LGUs within their jurisdiction; recommending measures and safeguards against pollution as well as fund generation; and coming up with solutions to identified solid waste management problems.