Payatas residents cry out for justice

By Margaux Ortiz
Last updated 05:08am (Mla time) 07/09/2007

MANILA, Philippines — Years after the garbage slide in Payatas, Quezon City that killed over 100 residents in the area, families of the victims complained that they have yet to attain justice.


On Tuesday, the seventh anniversary of the trash slide incident, residents will mark the event by saying prayers, lighting candles and by putting flowers at a marker which contains the names of those who died in the tragedy.


Initiated by members of Bangon Kalikasan Movement-Payatas Chapter led by Nita Panoy and the victims’ relatives, the activity is also aimed at calling the attention of the Quezon City government to the impending eviction of some 100 families in the area who have been living there for 16 years or more.


According to Panoy, the eviction could take place any time next time. She added that no definite commitment has been given to the residents on where they would be relocated.


“We appeal to Mayor Sonny Belmonte not to go ahead with the eviction,” she said.


“No justice has been given to the victims; their relatives have hardly been compensated and dumping continues,” Panoy lamented. “Is the garbage more important than the people? We were here first.”


The city government is reportedly planning to expand the dump.


A one-hectare portion of the 30-hectare, 50-foot high dump collapsed on July 10, 2000 after two typhoons hit Metro Manila. The trash slide buried hundreds of shanties and the people inside them.


Joey Papa, president of Bangon Kalikasan Movement, questioned the expansion plans since the dump should have been closed and rehabilitated in February 2006, “as mandated under Republic Act No. 9003 or The Ecological Solid Waste Management Act.”


“It is rainy season again. Water collects fast inside the steep garbage mountain. The 2000 disaster was caused by a ‘damming’ effect after heavy rains, causing the mountain to burst and push down the trash,” Papa added.


He stressed that the continued operation of Payatas and about 1,000 “open” and “controlled” dumps throughout the country is illegal.


“The law mandates that from the time it was passed in January 2001, all the barangays, with the support of the municipal and city governments, should have started implementing the ecological alternative of waste prevention, reduction, sorting and segregation, reuse, recycling and composting from the homes and establishments to the barangay Ecology Center or Materials Recovery Facility,” Papa explained.


“The Ecology Center system, with the active participation of the people in each and every house and establishment, is the heart and soul of the law, but efforts among authorities to implement this have been half-hearted,” Papa added.


He said that some authorities have been more actively promoting the so-called sanitary landfills or “glorified dumps.”


“If the law is to be interpreted with a sincere intent to make it work, those implementing it should consider the provision for sanitary landfills a last resort,” he emphasized.


Unfortunately, Papa bewailed, the authorities are saying that the next step to closing the dump is to set up another dump, though now referred to as a sanitary landfill and to collect the methane and toxic gases from these dumps and turn these into electricity.


The process, he stressed, is inefficient because much of the gases escape. “Besides, why dump precious resources which can be composted and recycled, and then try in vain, to collect dirty energy?” he said.


“We have power from the wind, the sun and the waters all around us. It is clean and renewable energy, not toxic, like that from Payatas,” Papa added.


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