A group of concerned citizens are calling for the closure of an “illegal dumpsite” in Victorias City, Negros Occidental, adjacent to a community forest park, and the withdrawal of the recent Seal of Good Local Governance granted the city government, for failure to comply.
The demands are contained in letters to Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu, Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año and Victorias City officials sent in behalf of the concerned citizens by Butuyan and Rayel Law Offices represented by lawyer Gilbert Andres.
The demand carries the possibility of filing the necessary civil, criminal and administrative charges against the city officials, including an exhaustive exaction of personal liability, Andres said
Victorias Mayor Francis Palanca, who told the DAILY STAR yesterday he was in Okinawa City, Japan, on official business, had not sent his reaction to Andres’ claims as of press time.
Andres said the dumpsite is adjacent to Nordson Forest Park, a 60-hectare man-made community forest park in Victorias City, located 3 kilometers east of the national highway and City Hall.
It was converted in 1996 from a first class sugar plantation and planted with up to 25 varieties of endemic and exotic trees to recreate a lowland rainforest. It is owned, maintained, and being protected by Nordson Green Earth Foundation of lawyer-philanthropist Nordy Diploma, he added.
Nordson Forest Park is also host to a 3-hectare campus of the Negros Occidental National Science High School that was donated by Diploma in 1999. The Transfer Certificate of Title was formally turned over to the school in August, Andres said.
Also inside the park is the 2-hectare Nordson-GK Village consisting of 30 houses that were specially designed by an Australian architect and funded by Diploma for the about 100 residents who used to work in the sugar plantation, Andres said.
Some of these residents were given employment in the forest park, he added.
Diploma, who turned 84 recently, is now undertaking a sustainability development project to perpetuate his legacy and ensure the preservation and protection of the forest park for future generations, Andres said.
In June 2019, architects and surveyors working on the project, while on an ocular inspection of trails at the north side of the forest discovered the “unsightly” view of the edge of the city’s illegal garbage dump from one of the trail sections across the Guinpana-an River, he said.
The foundation had previously expressed opposition to the dump and was assured by City Hall that its use will be discontinued and, in fact, had been discontinued, he added.
During the inspection in June, however, brightly colored trash suggested that the dumpsite was, and still is in operation. The matter was again brought to the attention of City Hall during the turnover of the TCT of the Science High School in a speech of Diploma that was read for him by his sister, former Board Member Corazon Diploma, Andres said.
A personal call by Diploma was also made to the City Administrator, he said.
Thereafter, efforts were made by the City to level and “cover” the dumpsite so that this cannot be recognized from any possible drone photography. However, this process pushed the garbage pile closer to the Guinpana-an River, he said.
This was discovered sometime in September 2019 and documented with photographs, Andres said.
Diploma mobilized his team of environmental lawyers from Butuyan & Rayel Law Offices/CenterLaw to issue a demand letter, “on behalf of Concerned Citizens,” addressed to the Victorias mayor, vice mayor and members of the City Council citing gross continuing violation of Republic Act 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000, Andres added.
He said the letter called for the “immediate closure and mitigation” of the illegal dump site within 30 days from receipt. The demand letter was signed by lawyers Joel Butuyan, Shawn Dustin Coscolluela and Andres.
The “Concerned Citizens”, who were not named, are those who are directly affected by the presence of the illegal dump site near the Nordson Forest Park, Andres said.
He cited the faculty, administration, staff and more than 500 students of the Negros Occidental National Science High School, residents of the Nordson-GK Village, and the barangay in general.
They are at daily risk of disease that can be carried by flies, foul odor and possible contamination of the Guinpana-an River and the ground water by toxic leachate, he said.
Separate demand letters were sent to the Department of the Interior and Local Government and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources urging strict implementation of RA 9003.
The demand letter to the DILG also protested and demanded the withdrawal of the Seal of Good Local Governance that the department bestowed on the Victorias City LGU on November 4 at the Manila Hotel for failure to comply with the criterion of the award on solid waste management, Andres said.*
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