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LT barrios enlist earthworms to process biodegradable wastes
by Jimmy Laking

In the heart of the Puguis communal forest, punong barangay Osburn Visaya puts on the finishing touches to a bamboo enclosure near a pit filled with rotting wastes.

In a few days, he will have the pit covered with soil. Thenceforth, all collected biodegradable wastes will be dumped into the 8.5 x 1.5 meter bamboo enclosure.

“This is our first eco-composting receptacle (ECR),” he said. “All biodegradable wastes will have to be deposited here.”

To protect the enclosure, he has made arrangements with two forest rangers to include this unique and unlikely dump site in their daily patrols of the 48-hectare communal forest – one of five forested areas owned by the capital town.

“And to prevent methane gas from forming in the ECR, barangay officials will be visiting the ECR regularly to ensure that the wastes are evenly spread out,” he said.

Like magic, earthworms would appear from nowhere and then converge on the rotting wastes, processing them into premium composts. PB Visayas’ ECR is estimated to be able to produce 50 sacks of compost within six months or more.

As is their nature, other forms of vermin like flies and rats would be attracted to the pile – freeing nearby residences of the pests.

Barangay Puguis is the third local government unit of La Trinidad that has adopted the ECR, a system popularized by former Loakan-Liwanag PB Fred Fangonon.

The second is Barangay Pico under PB Juan Mendoza. With his go-signal, several ECRs were erected; two in the residence of municipal councilor Arthur Shontogan and one each at the residence of barangay council members Fernando Palitayan and Ramon Salda. Before them, two enclosures were put up in one residential compound in Sitio Toyong by a part-time organic farmer desperate for fertilizer.

But the first La Trinidad PB to officially adopt the system is Barangay Ambiong’s Teddy Quintos who is fully convinced of its effectiveness that he had a 17-meter long ECR built on a vacant lot framed by pine trees.

This bamboo enclosure takes an average of six sacks of biodegradable materials every Tuesday and Friday collected from a total of 770 households.

What hooked Quintos into adopting it the first time he saw a receptacle in Barangay Loakan-Liwanag is the simplicity and practicality of the system. “This solves the matter of where to dispose waste,” he said. “Why bring it somewhere when it can be composed right here?”

He said the secret is to manage it properly “and the earthworms will do the rest.”

Quintos aid every delivery to the receptacle is spread out evenly and then covered with sunflower leaves.

The ECR would be able to yield 100 sacks of high-grade compost in a year’s time.

The growing interest shown by a number of La Trinidad PBs in waste management approaches like the ECR is made all the more pressing by an executive order issued by mayor Gregorio Abalos Jr. that downloaded the management of solid wastes to the barangays.

The move is based on Section 10 of Republic Act 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000 that mandated management of the segregation of compostable and reusable wastes to the barangays, leaving the collection of residuals or non-biodegradables to the municipal government.

“It is their ball-game from here on,” said Abalos.

La Trinidad boasts of the region’s first multi-million engineered sanitary landfill (ESL) built in 2007 under then mayor Nestor Fongwan in Barangay Alno but with the municipality producing an average of 100 tons of solid waste daily, municipal officials had decided that only residual wastes should be dumped into it to ensure a longer lifespan for the ESL.

Abalos’ order was meant to provide a hands-on approach to the collection and management of solid wastes by the town’s 16 barangays.

Seen as a factor in the success of the ECRs is how well the people are complying with the waste segregation campaign. In Barangay Puguis, PB Visaya said barangay officials had a difficult time convincing people at first but eventually most households are now cooperating.

Municipal administrator Charles Canuto said the compliance rate municipal-wide ranged from 60 to 70 percent “but may improve dramatically once the barangays take the campaign to heart.”

“There is still work to do on how to get the cooperation of most residents and the burden of doing the task lies in the hands of the barangays,” he said.

And with the ECRs taking a foothold, the capital town has the option of making do with a decidedly simple contraption that is “inexpensive, easy to do, not a health hazard, and environment-friendly” to process its biodegradable wastes.

There is also no such thing as a break-down in the system as the earthworms are only too happy to help out for so long as individual households do their share in providing fodder for the wrigglers, helping abet the effects of Climate Change in the process.
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