Piñol’s help sought on transfer of Baguio waste facility in Benguet

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet —The Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) of Benguet has decided to ask Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol to have Baguio City’s temporary waste transfer station removed from its present site in the Baguio Dairy Farm near Tuba town.

Since early this year, Baguio City has been dumping its garbage in a temporary waste transfer station in Barangay Dontogan along Marcos Highway, near the municipality of Tuba in Benguet.

The garbage, collected from various villages in the city, passes through the transfer station before it is transported to a private sanitary landfill in Urdaneta, Pangasinan.

However, the neighboring town of Tuba and other communities have been complaining about the dump citing health risks.

Piñol earlier granted the request of Baguio City to use 5,000 square meters of the stock farm at the Baguio Dairy Farm owned by the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) under the Department of Agriculture for about a year, while the city pushes for the construction of its own engineered sanitary landfill, though also in Benguet.

Benguet provincial board member Nestor Fongwan Jr., who chairs the Committee on Environment, proposed in the board’s meeting on Tuesday the request to Piñol to relocate the temporary waste transfer station in case Baguio City won’t vacate the site after April 1, 2019.

“We have to safeguard the welfare of the residents of Tuba, especially those living in Poblacion, who are affected by the environmental problems posed by the transfer station,” said Fongwan, stressing that “the relocation site should be away from residential houses and school.”

The provincial board’s move was in line with the earlier petition of residents of Barangay Poblacion, opposing Baguio’s dumping station near their homes.

“There was no public consultation conducted by the city government with the residents of Poblacion, Tuba (before the dumping station was put up),” the villagers complained in their petition.

In their petition paper, they said the dumping area is near their homes, business establishments, and schools, posing danger to their health.

In its Tuesday meeting, the Benguet provincial board invited Alex Luis, chief of the Environmental Monitoring and Enforcement Division of the Environmental Management Bureau in Cordillera, and other EMB officials to shed light on the environmental impact of the waste facility.

Luis told them Baguio’s waste transfer station has been compliant with environmental laws, based on the agency’s regular monitoring of the facility.

Benguet provincial board member Florencio Bentrez, who was the former mayor of Tuba town, urged the agency to conduct a regular monitoring of the facility to ensure the safety and health of the public, especially those living at Poblacion.

“The facility is already there, but just to be sure environmental measures are efficiently and sufficiently attended to,” Bentrez told officials of the local environment officials.

In a letter dated February 28, 2018, Ronnie Domingo, officer-in-charge of BAI, which supervises the operation of Baguio Dairy Farm, recommended to the Agriculture Secretary Baguio’s use of the stock farm, as long as “the proposed site shall be cleared and automatically vacated by the city government on or before April 1, 2019 without any expense demand from BAI”.

The temporary transfer station was established to address an emergency waste disposal problem that the city encountered following a trial court’s order to close the one established in La Trinidad town for violations of environmental laws. PNA-northboundasia.com