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Overflowing landfills due to a large volume of segregated or unsegregated solid wastes are common problems in most towns and cities in the Philippines, but not in few localities that advocate “zero wastes” and properly manage their solid wastes.
One of the very few LGUs that traversed a different path towards zero waste is the second class coastal municipality of Palompon in Leyte, with a population of more or less 70,000.
On December 5, 2019, during a forum on the environment and the circular economy of Stratbase Group, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Roy Cimatu declared that the country is facing a “garbage crisis” as waste generation has become unprecedented and clean-ups are no longer enough.
But this is not the case of Palompon, Leyte, and a few other towns and cities. The town has been awarded by the prestigious Galing Pook Awards in 1995 and in 2018 under the leadership of Mayor Ramon C. for their sustainable practices to protect the environment, especially in managing their solid wastes well.
Believe it or not, but this coastal town has no landfill nor dumpsite. They have converted their old dumpsite into an eco-park.
“Yung dating dumpsite ay kino-close na namin at ginawa ng dairy farm na. Yung buong parke is about five hectares, but right now we are only utilizing 1.8 hectares. Ito (soil conditioner) din yun pong binibigay namin sa organized farmers para nilalagay nila at ina-apply nila sa kanilang farm lot nila. What we have here ay hindi po siya basura but raw materials sya for soil conditioner, raw materials dun sa eco-bricks at dito sa pyrolyzer at sa hollow blocks,” explained Municipal Environment and Natural Resources Officer (MENRO) Raoul T. Bacalla.
He emphasized that a sanitary landfill is really not necessary if proper solid waste management is in place, particularly proper waste segregation at source.
Aside from proper waste segregation, they turn their wastes into something more useful, therefore, reusing their wastes into either as soil conditioner, hollow blocks and eco-bricks made of pulverized residual wastes mixed with sand and cement, and they have eco-bottles too, that they use construct waiting sheds, comfort rooms, arcs, and others.
“Kaya nga po ang program natin dito tawag natin dun is manna from garbage eh. If you segregate your garbage well ay wala talagang matitirang basura. Sabi ko nga it isn’t really necessary to have a sanitary landfill. All you have to do is to build an ecological solid waste management park,” Bacalla further explained in the Galing Pook documentary, hosted by Dr. Eddie Dorotan, Executive Director of the Galing Pook Foundation.
Mayor Ramon C. Oñate of Palompon, Leyte, a six-termer mayor since 1992, explained that by doing proper waste segregation it enables them to properly manage the solid wastes that made their place, a clean and orderly town.
“Kung hindi namin hihigpitan ang disposal of wastes ay talagang it will go back to us. What we want is that we can preserve this place for other generations also to appreciate. Not our generations but our children’s children,” Mayor Ramon C. Oñate said during the interview with Dr. Dorotan.
The portion of 1.8 hectare Palompon’s eco-park has a building that housed the shredding machines for both biodegradable and residual solid wastes. The finished products such as the eco-bricks, hollow blocks and soil conditioners/ fertilizers are also stored in a building within the facility. Also, other machinery found in their eco-park include pyrolyzer, condenser, composter, etc. which they acquire with the support of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).
In the Province of Palawan, initiatives are also put in place to significantly reduce the solid wastes.
Atty. Noel Aquino, Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Officer of the Provincial Government of Palawan said that the major contributors of plastic pollution in Palawan are informal settlers along the coastlines and the extensive use of single-use plastic among individuals.
He said that while the provincial government already started zero wastes in their offices, the provincial board has also drafted the Zero Waste Ordinance, which is now pending the Sangguniang Panlalawigan.
“Based on the result of the consolidated Waste Analysis and Characterization Studies (WACS), 300 metric tons daily is the waste of Palawan, excluding Puerto Princesa City. Palawan’s projected waste generation by 2023 as population increases in the province would be 416 metric (tons).”, he said.
“The province (of Palawan) is doing its best, with institutional and policy support. We are already aware and we are already taking measures to deal with the use of plastic,” Atty. Aquino further said.
The City of Puerto Princesa, on the other hand, is set to implement by April 2020, the City Ordinance No. 993 that regulates the use of single-use plastic bags and Styrofoam.
Business establishments in Puerto Princesa supported the City Ordinance No. 993, since some of the supermarkets like Go Land, MassWay, etc. have conspicuously installed tarpaulin and notice to the public informing their customers to avoid using plastic. NCCC Supermarket on its part, already shifted to paper-based packaging to rid of single-use plastic bags.
With the ban of single-use plastic and plastic bags in Puerto Princesa starting next year, a significant reduction of solid waste is expected by then.
The good practices exhibited by Palompon, Leyte for efficiently managing their solid wastes without any landfill or dumpsite is an inspiration to many other towns and cities in the country.
Palompon, Leyte may not have a landfill but they fully complied with the three aspects that the Republic Act 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000 requires us to do. First is the segregation of solid wastes at source, second is the segregated collection, and the third, the environment-friendly disposal. But in their case, not disposal but re-use of resources into soil conditioner, eco-bricks, or hollow blocks.