July 17, 2024

The Baguio City Council postponed the approval of the funding of two projects under the first supplemental budget for 2024.

The projects, whose funding were deferred during the regular session on April 29, are the proposed construction of a leachate treatment plant at Irisan Ecopark and the purchase of equipment to be used in the operation of the upgraded transfer station at Dontogan barangay.

Councilor Peter Fianza questioned the necessity to build a leachate treatment plant worth P35 million at the former location of the decommissioned Irisan dumpsite, which had become inactive due to the issuance of temporary protection order back in 2008 and led to the implementation of rehabilitation plans after the site’s closure.

He said over a decade had passed since the dumpsite had been ordered closed, thus possibly eliminating the environmental and health risks associated with leachate.

He said the guidelines for the closure of the dumpsite had even recommended repurposing the area for other viable initiatives beneficial to the city.

During the regular session on Feb. 26, City Administrator Bonifacio dela Peña said the leachate had already permeated the site, thus the need to address the issue.

Dela Peña said the project’s original intention was to install a septic tank. However, the septic tank alone would not sufficiently address the issues arising from the aftermath of the dumpsite.

He said the current infrastructure, such as aeration pipes and retaining walls, lacks the capacity to adequately treat leachate.

The city council opted to defer the approval of the funding for the project following Fianza’s recommendation.

The city council also postponed the approval of the P56.8-M funding for the purchase of equipment for the proposed transfer station due to a clerical error in the documentation.

What was written in the document was “construction of the transfer station” when it should have been “purchase of equipment”, leading to the deferral of the funding request.

Likewise, the attachment to the requested amount in the Supplemental Annual Investment Plan, which was earlier approved by the city council, pertains to the construction of roads leading to the transfer station and a shed for staging and shredding activities.

It categorically states that the purchase of equipment is not included.

The city’s proposed upgraded transfer station will serve as a key component for the city’s waste management infrastructure designed to accommodate the efficient handling of waste materials.

The current facility at Dontogan barangay is actually a sorting station where garbage is dumped and sorted by personnel. It will be relocated to another area within the site once it is upgraded, and the area it currently occupies will be used for the construction of an intermodal terminal which is another project of the city government in the pipeline.

The proposed transfer station will house the city’s centralized materials recovery facility (MRF). 

General Services Officer Eugene Buyucan said the bidding for the site development of the proposed transfer station had already been completed.

He clarified the funding for the construction of the facility for P30M had already been approved by the city council in 2023 and that the P56.8 M currently being requested would be used to purchase the equipment for the MRF.

During the session, Councilor Betty Lourdes Tabanda expressed doubt that this requested fund for the purchase of equipment is needed for this year considering that the construction of the facility had not started yet, and that completing the structure appears unlikely within this year. 

She said it would be impractical to acquire equipment for a building that has not yet been constructed, a point Buyucan disputed.

He believed this issue could be addressed while awaiting the building’s construction.

Tabanda further pointed out that the Commission on Audit had recently called out the city government for placing idle funds into time deposits beyond the limits.

These idle funds were likely the result of projects, programs, and activities that had not been implemented in previous years.

Tabanda expressed concern that purchasing equipment would lead to another unimplemented activity.

Vice Mayor Faustino Olowan urged the City Buildings and Architecture Office to promptly submit the project plan or program of work to the city council for thorough scrutiny before approving the requested budget for equipment.

Councilor Rocky Aliping said the program of work should have been prepared in advance to accurately identify the costs of the project’s components. – Jordan G. Habbiling