Environmental activists take action against dumping of flood wastes

Marikina City. 16 October 2009. The Greenpeace Water Patrol, EcoWaste Coalition and Buklod Tao Kalikasan today trooped to the Nangka River to expose the illegal dumping of flood garbage and debris into the River by the Marikina government and the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA).

The groups are calling on the husband and wife tandem of Marikina Mayor Marides Fernando and MMDA chair Bayani Fernando to explain why several Marikina City and MMDA trucks have been caught dumping silt and garbage left by tropical storm Ondoy at the bank of the Nangka River.

The protesters planted a 10 meter banner at the San Mateo side of the river, facing Marikina that says “Basurang itinapon ninyo, babalik sa inyo!” (The garbage you throw will return to haunt you). Another banner planted right on the mound of wastes says “Protect our river. Stop dumping!”

The mud-filled disaster debris has already choked around 80 percent of the river channel and the residents of San Mateo on the opposite bank are fearful because the impeded water flow has already started soil erosion on their side in just a matter of days. The waters have also turned very murky and the stench in the area is becoming unbearable.

“Flooding and landslides will only get worse with the increasing incidence of severe weather events brought on by climate change,” warns Beau Baconguis, Greenpeace Southeast Asia Toxics Campaigner. “Unless we clean up our act and stop using our water bodies as waste dumps, the risks from toxic pollution made worse by extreme weather events will only get higher.”

The illegal activities have been documented by members of the environmental groups. Trucks dump silt and garbage onto the riverbank, and then bulldozers and payloaders push them into the water.

“Whether government-sanctioned or not, the activities violate both the Clean Water Act and the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act,” said Rei Panaligan of EcoWaste Coalition. “This is yet another example of how our environmental laws are brazenly ignored. Marikina has been cited for being a clean city, but they are apparently dumping in other parts that are not visible to the general public.”

Under R.A. 9275 (Clean Water Act), discharging or depositing materials directly or indirectly into water bodies, which can cause water pollution or impede the natural flow of water, is prohibited. Similarly, R.A. 9003 (Ecological Solid Waste Management Act) bans
the open dumping of waste matters in public places, especially in flood-prone areas.

Noli Abinales of Buklod Tao Kalikasan likewise warns that aside from human justice, environmental justice may catch up with Marikina and the MMDA: “What were they thinking? We have just experienced probably the worst disaster to hit the area, and here they are doing exactly the kind of practice that contributed to making the recent typhoon an even bigger disaster in the first place! I would like to call on the Fernandos to do the right thing before another storm arrives and floodwaters bring this stuff back knocking on our doors.”