by Edgar R. Rodillon
Member, PAGTATAP FOUNDATION, INC. – Philippines
Pandan, Antique, Philippines
Almost everyday since a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) was issued by the Honorable Judge Nery Duremdes of the Regional Trial Court of Antique the proponents for putting a garbage dumpsite at Semirara Island in Antique province have been brazenly waging a tri-media barrage of radio, TV and newspaper statements and interviews insisting on distorting the truths about the evils of forcing a dumpsite in Semirara to the consternation of the residents of the area and concerned citizens and NGOs trying to defend the helpless islanders from the stubborn indifference of opportunists who believe they can corrupt and scare the poor ‘probinsyanos’ into giving up their health, livelihood and natural habitat.
Rebutting all the false claims and propaganda unleashed by Messrs. Aventajado and Binay in an attempt to mislead the Metro Manila public whose votes they need in the forthcoming elections, let me present the following to educate these basura wizards:
1) Claim: The structure claimed to be built at Semirara Island is allegedly an engineering landfill with all the needed environmental safeguards, and that it will not threaten pollution to the Semirara water supply, air, seas, the adjacent Boracay tourism island, and the clean beaches of Antique, Aklan and Mindoro. This is entirely wrong!!
a) Clearly this shows a lack of knowledge on the project being espoused. Our two gentlemen above and also Mr. Edmund Sese of RII builders and Mr. Sid Consunji of DMCI should know that their composite HDPE (high density polyethylene) geo-membrane shielding and compacted clay lining landfill technology cannot stop leachate from poisoning the ground water supply and the surrounding seas of the dumping area. Research studies conducted by Geoservices of Florida, USA as reported by the Environmental Research Foundation (ERF) conducted scientific studies that led to conclusions that even state-of-the-art HDPEs are expected to leak at the rate of 200 liters per hectare per day. Thus, a 20-hectare landfill will contaminate ground water with benzene, toluene, trichloroethylene (TCE), and ethylbenzene at the rate of 4,000 liters of leachate daily. Why? Because HDPE has been known to contain what are known as pinholes, as manufactured. These holes are a result of fisheyes (thin spots), bubbles, foreign materials, or lumps of carbon in the raw molten plastic from where the membranes are made, In addition, there will be holes in the seams at the rate of 1 hole per 1000 feet of seam, when the HDPE sheets are welded together during construction, even under best quality conditions. With an average hole size of one square centimeter, one can just imagine the degree of contamination that will destroy the ground water of the island – permanently – from a landfill 20 hectares wide! And thats not all. Certain chemicals permeate or flow through plastic liners. A report from the University of Wisconsin showed that dilute solutions of common solvents like xylenes, toluene, TCE, and methylene chloride can penetrate HDPE in one to thirteen days. Another study done by Phillips Petroleum Company stated that HDPE is permeated (passed through) by aromatic hydrocarbons and halogenated hydrocarbons – chemicals found in common household items like mothballs, detergents, hair shampoo, lotions and hand creams, shaving lotion, etc. Other factors like cracking from stress, brittleness, decay, also do occur. Whether it takes 3 years or 20 years it will occur, and when that happens leachate will migrate from the landfill to the ground water, condemning its use for all eternity.
b) The clay lining supporting the HDPE is likewise breachable by leachate in an even worse manner. Three inches of water standing on the bottom liner of a landfill will take but 15 years to break through a 3-foot thick compacted clay bottom liner. And once it has broken through gallons of leachate will be discharged into the ground water unabated. Arguments may be but forward that leachate collection systems will be put in place at the pit bottoms. Even so, these liquid collection systems have been found to clog up due to debris, sludge, growth of micro-organisms, or due to a variety of other reasons, making this argument invalid.
c) What about the landfill top cover or cap? Maintaining the integrity of the landfill cap alone for the duration of the landfill hazard, which is hundreds of years, will cost billions of pesos. Failing to do this will allow the landfill to collect rain water and spillage of garbage juice over the sides of the landfill will occur. With RII Builders questionable track record at complying with contract conditions on their previous projects, with the more advanced countries failing to address this same problem effectively, how can we expect come out any better? Let us be honest about this.
d) Transporting tons of garbage via our sea-lanes on open barges that leak pose a serious threat of contamination by accidents, spillage, seepage, and natural disasters. Rainwater pouring over the open garbage barges gets discharged into the sea after passing through all the filthy payload. The risk of disaster due to big waves, strong winds, collision, etc. will hang like a Damocles sword over the territories along the path of the garbage barges. Is environment protected this way? Quite an insult to our intelligence this is.
2) Claim: The people of Semirara and Antique have agreed to this project. This is utterly false!
a) Contrary to what our technobrats are claiming the people of Semirara at this moment are holding vigil at Dapdap Pier, Semirara in the fear of waking up beside a stinking garbage pit. The Sangguniang Bayan of the Municipality of Caluya which has jurisdiction over Semirara has passed a resolution rejecting the landfill. The same process was repeated at the Antique Sangguniang Panlalawigan, the Boracay Foundation, PAGTATAP Foundation, Pandan Antique Foundation, the religious institutions, as well as with other NGO’s and local government units in Panay Island. What are our proponents brandishing to the media as social acceptance? Those are (1) the certificate to conduct a study and public consultations in Antique, signed by the governor, but who now revoked that document due to its being mis-used and in response to widespread opposition, and (2) another certificate for the same purpose, signed by a baranggay leader persuaded suspiciously, and who in the first place does not represent the will of the people of the island. Why did Mr. Aventajado and Mr. Binay not mention the strong objections of the representatives of Libertad, Pandan, Caluya, San Jose and of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan members of Antique during the hearings conducted at San Jose on January 15 and 22? What about the signed petitions of citizens of Antique, Aklan and the Panay Island schools and universities? What about Boracay’s opposition? Boracay is only 55 kms. away while Antique mainland is roughly 30 kms. distant. Where do the above pleadings end up in the conscience of these President’s men?
b) The landfill construction does not even have a construction permit from the municipality of Caluya. It doesn’t have the ECC required by the DENR which has clarified that their go signal did not constitute an approval to ship the garbage to Semirara. How can these people repeatedly pronounce to proceed with their insidious plan ignoring the legal requisites? Do we still have law and democracy being respected here?
3) Claim: The garbage problem is a matter of national concern and is out of the jurisdiction of the courts of law in Antique.
a) To this effect, the Court of Appeals was petitioned to lift the TRO from the Antique RTC for lack of jurisdiction. Really now, Mr. Binay. How is it that something that has been refused by Metro Manila and a number of other provinces can be expected to be welcome at Antique? Is your definition of national concern that which only affects Metro Manila? Aren’t the Antiqueños a part of this nation such that their sentiments need not be given attention? Don’t we have the right to say NO like all the rest of the country? We may be a neglected lot in terms of national government support but certainly we fully understand what’s fair and what are not.
4) Claim: The objection at Antique is a result of local politics.
a) I find this rather funny. Our organizations are mostly NGO’s concerned about environment, livelihood and people welfare. Our leaders are non-politicians and harbor no political ambitions. On the contrary it is Mr. Aventajado and Mr. Binay who have been reported to be running for lucrative posts in the coming elections. It might be the very reason why we at Antique and nearby provinces are being marginalized. Our voting strength is no match to that of Metro Manila. To hell with our votes as long as the endorsement of the Metro Manila residents are won. That, for me, is politics.
To sum it all gentlemen, we at PAGTATAP FOUNDATION, INC. categorically say this: Antique has never approved the setting up of a landfill at Semirara, that it is a threat to the environment, livelihood and economy of the area, that there is overwhelming strong opposition from various groups against this project, and that the legal requisites thereof have not been satisfied. No landfill, however modern has been known to guarantee environmental safety against pollution and contamination. In time, all landfills will destroy the environment of the host community. Let not the garbage problem be solved in Metro Manila by creating another one at our beloved Antique province.