Last September 16, Levi Glen and I got a chance to talk with Councilor Jose Molintas, a respected lawyer and politician in Baguio. I better admit it— he is not the typical politician I know. He is very energetic—a literal brisk-walker, freethinker, and young-at-heart (he even cracked some rather hearty jokes with us, and guess what, he will pass as a good joker too). From the outward appearance to the manners of his speech, he is very respectable. Levi G and I felt like jesters hanging to the gown of some noble.
He opened the issue about the Irisan dumpsite, which is currently subject to much controversy. With 15 persons killed in a fatal ‘dumpslide’, the death toll itself amounted to that of the Payatas Dumpsite tragedy. More than the number of deaths, however, is the idea that people are dying of suffocation in stinking garbage that the people of Baguio think they trashed to outer space.
Molintas expressed a deep concern for this issue, for he said that he has been one of the railroaders of the closure of the dumpsite since 1999. His premises remained the same (1) the Irisan dumpsite is becoming full, so the city government must allot budget to create a new landfill; (2) the accumulating garbage is a constant health hazard to the residents of Baguio, especially as the garbage creates a ‘garbage fluid’, or whatever they call it, that may seep in to the city’s water system; (3) the government’s scheme for solid waste disposal is ineffective and therefore must be resolved as soon as possible.
Through his lucid and emotional words, he described to us the true situation of the Irisan dumpsite. Let me illustrate this to you. Imagine a small hill. At the hilltop is a large, 30-feet tall cup of cement and metal. This cup is where the trash of the whole city is disposed. In essence, this barricade at the top of the hill is a literal dam of trash.
So what will happen when a ‘dam’ gets too old and the water in it is increasing in volume? There will be an overflow. So now what the heck will happen when a cracked, dilapidated, barricade built to imprison garbage is barged with heavy rain and trash? There is no need to answer this sad question.
Former Mayor Bautista has been the subject of much protest because of the same dumpsite, specifically because the local residents are increasingly becoming wary that the dumpsite is a threat to life and property. According to the Northern Dispatch issue April 6, 2009, Baguio folks barricaded the front gate in order to stop the trucks from dumping the garbage. As a conclusion to this brief crisis, Mayor Bautista eventually scrapped millions from the city fund to dump garbage in Tarlac. After the issue subsided, Bautista resumed the dumping operations in Irisan like nothing happened.
What if the money was spent to invest in a new landfill and new machines to get rid of the solid waste? Does the local government give any damn to the lives of the innocent people, children and parents, living near the dumpsite? Does the government give any damn to the health of the people of Baguio?
There is something stinking about this whole issue of the Irisan dumpsite, there is no question.