MANILA, Philippines – The road leading to the two landfills in Rodriguez, Rizal province remains blocked, with the police abandoning the area to supporters of suspended Rodriguez Mayor Pedro Cuerpo.
Police officials said they pulled out of the area Monday afternoon upon the orders of Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno and Philippine National Police chief Director General Avelino Razon Jr. The mayor and Puno are scheduled to discuss his fate and the landfill row today.
“We did not disperse them. That’s the order from above,” said Rizal provincial police chief, Supt. Ireneo Dordas, adding that government officials told him to leave Cuerpo’s supporters alone.
The mayor’s allies started gathering in the area last Saturday, days after the Rodriguez municipal council passed a resolution closing down the landfills to garbage trucks from Metro Manila.
Supt. Emmanuel Bautista, Rodriguez police chief, said the police pulled out of the site at around 2 p.m. Around 500 to 700 of Cuerpo’s supporters remained in the area, blocking the road with their bodies, five trucks, mounds of soil and metal spikes.
The Rizal provincial board and Gov. Casimiro Ynares III placed Cuerpo on preventive suspension for 60 days last week based on a complaint filed last year by the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority and garbage haulers.
The MMDA and the waste contractors said Cuerpo’s decision to raise garbage fees in the town, which has two dumps – one controlled by the municipality, the other controlled by the province – was illegal.
Cuerpo described the suspension as “harassment.” The mayor and Ynares have been involved in an ongoing feud on the control over the landfills.
Environment Secretary Joselito Atienza, meanwhile, urged the MMDA to look for more permanent solutions to avert a garbage crisis.
Atienza told reporters at a forum Monday that he had already authorized the opening of a 20-hectare landfill in Norzagaray, Bulacan, but added that the country still lacked an “acceptable world-standard waste disposal facility.” With Allison W. Lopez