Handling wastes in Lipa City: A history of lack of cooperation, ineptitude

 

LIPA CITY—Today’s garbage woes across the city bring back lessons from 15 years ago when a United Nations-funded solid waste management project in the city flopped due to residents’ bad habits in waste segregation, and their distrust to government.

Lessons from that project, funded by UN-Habitat, may echo today’s issues facing Lipa City when it comes to solid waste management —coming from the local government, residents and concerned stakeholders.

From 1998 to the first quarter of 2002, Lipa City was one of three demonstration cities that implemented the “Strengthening Local UN Habitat project Lipa CityEnvironmental Planning and Management” project of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the League of Cities of the Philippines (LCP).

Known as the Local-EPM project, the project’s implementation at a time when the country passed Republic Act 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act.

That Local-EPM project in Lipa was able to open a community-based solid waste management project in Brgy. Balintawak’s Sitio San Nicolas, found near the city public market that was then generating some 2.67 tons of garbage a day. A materials recovery facility and a soil composter were opened in the area, then the haven of a city dumpsite.

Local-EPM also had a reforestation project titled “Barangay Environmental Rehabilitation and Development” (BERDE, Filipino for green—the color for environmental protection) in Brgy. 6. A plant nursery was opened.

At the time of the Local-EPM project, various information materials on recycling —from handouts to billboards— were handed out to residents especially in Brgy. Balintawak. The barangay even amended a previous anti-solid wastes ordinance.

The San Nicolas demonstration project got P500,000, and the nursery project P400,000 from UN-Habitat (US$1 = PhP 49.90 as of December 2000). However, the San Nicolas demonstration project was implemented only for six months and came at the heat of the 2001 local and national elections.

An evaluation of the San Nicolas project, written by Gracia Mendoza, showed that the spirit of volunteerism from residents “was lacking;” it proved difficult to mobilize stakeholders, especially the market vendors association and household service workers. Even the barangay chairman at that time, though not identified in the report, became an issue because of his drinking problems.

Amid those odds, the streets of San Nicolas were cleaner during the project’s duration. Garbage bins for certain types of wastes were spread out in the area. The information campaign proved effective. Even the coordination between the local government, Church groups, non-government organizations and barangay residents and officials, especially from Brgy. Balintawak, improved.

But these developments lasted for only three months, observes Mendoza.

“Old habits refused to die; some residents began dumping mixed wastes in vacant lots, main roads and creeks. Stallholders in the public market stopped practicing waste segregation… Others burned wastes in their backyard.”

“The demonstration project should be launched only in well-selected and organized communities,” Mendoza wrote. “Competence of implementing organizations should be organized.”

At the time of the project, the city government of then Mayor Vilma Santos-Recto identified solid waste as the “most visible of Lipa’s environmental problems.” A city-wide consultation in November 1999 found that causes of the solid waste problem include increasing solid waste due to urbanization; unsegregated waste; garbage burning; ineffective enforcement of local sanitation ordinances and national environmental laws on solid waste management; and the absence of an available site for a controlled dump facility and a sanitary landfill.

Lipa City, by population, was some 218,447 big in the year 2000.

A separate report titled “Revisiting Lipa City’s Local-EPM Project” by Edna Soriano wrote that neither the Sitio San Nicolas nor the BERDE demonstration projects “were replicated nor upscaled.”

The Philippine office of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), on behalf of UN-Habitat, terminated support to Lipa’s Local-EPM project in in the first quarter of 2002. The UN-Habitat publication titled The Sustainable Cities Programme in the Philippines (1998-2007) wrote that the “failure of the (demonstration project in San Nicolas) to go beyond the pilot stage confirmed the people’s negative perception of government.”

“Indeed, the project flopped after six months because commitments were at a token level, seemingly to draw votes rather than supporting the project, while others did not want to be construed as favoring the political party identified with the city mayor… The project timing was questionable.”

The demonstration project in San Nicolas, the UN-Habitat publication wrote “This is a classic case of miss-entry into the community.”

At the local policy level though, a 1999 ordinance (General ordinance no. VIII) first mandated the environmental management fee for the city. The ordinance directed the Metro Lipa Water District to collect P10 monthly from users, with P5 of the said fee going to barangays’ solid waste management programs.

UN-Habitat’s project was courtesy of the agency’s global technical cooperation facility called the Global Sustainable Cities Program that benefitted some 66 cities across the globe.

 

 

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About JEREMAIAH M. OPINIANO