Issue of March 2, 2014
Mt. Province

Courier Anniversary Issue
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Round–about pursuit of an ESL

Once again the celebration of the EDSA Revolution that sent a dictator packing in exile and ushered in the return of Philippine democracy went seemingly unnoticed by those that ruled the roost in City Hall.

Not even the so-called staunchest advocates of autonomy had something to say on EDSA’s legacies, conveniently skipping the fact that it was EDSA that triggered the re-rewriting of the Constitution that mandated autonomy.

But like we said before, this is to be expected. Most of them were fence-sitters during that critical stage in Philippine history and could not relate to it in one way or another.

It is not their fault that conditions remain basically unchanged, paving the way for tyrants and incompetents to gain and to abuse power.

Nor it is their fault that the significance of the event is lost on the media themselves as they place more news value in a television host’s closed-door adventures than on the effects of climate change or this city’s diminishing water supply.

All told, EDSA’s greatest failing is that it is remembered more for the things it has not achieved than for the things it was supposed to have accomplished.

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Meanwhile, the round-about or the make-believe pursuit of this city for an engineered sanitary landfill has supposedly reached an interesting stage with the revelation that the approved annual investment plan has set aside more than P77 million for the purchase of a lot and the establishment of an ESL.

A city press office news release quoted the General Service Office head as saying the functional landfill will finally eliminate the need to haul wastes to Urdaneta City by the end of the year.

The caretakers of City Hall have talked about this for some time and have referred to the prospective site as located in an adjacent municipality. Effort has also been made to remind reporters not to reveal the site until negotiations and the permits are accomplished.

Well, I checked this out with the municipalities of La Trinidad, Itogon, and Tuba and came out empty-handed. Eventually, word has let out that a landowner in Sablan has agreed to part with 25 hectares for this city’s ESL.

Sablan officials denied this although Mayor Arthur Baldo did not discount the possibility that it could happen. In short, if there were negotiations for an ESL site, Sablan officials were not aware or were not consulted. How presumptuous indeed to think that because a landowner parted with his land, the community will welcome any project that will be introduced with open arms and open legs!

This brings to mind a much-publicized attempt to put up an ESL in Itogon’s Barangay Ampucao two years ago which a city official has discussed at length, citing a memorandum of understanding with municipal and provincial officials as basis.

As it turned out, he has spoken too soon. There was no social acceptance and the required free prior and informed consent of the host community was simply not there. In the end, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources thumbed down the proposed ESL as it would violate the National Integrated Protected Areas System Law, the area being part of the Lower Agno river watershed reservation. Among other things, the DENR feared leacheate coming from the ESL would contaminate water sources.

My hunch is that the city council must have been probably swayed into approving the AIP budget despite the lack of certainty for an ESL site. It bears watching if the council has made the right decision or if an ESL for the city will finally take shape.

But given the proclivity of some people in saying one thing and doing another, I will not be surprised at all if by the end of the year, the queue of dump trucks hauling this city’s solid waste to Urdaneta has not stopped. Meanwhile, the city’s 10-year integrated waste management plan will have to wait for its own sweet time.

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