By Ali G. Macabalang
Residents of Marawi City’s lakeshore community protesting a proposed P300-million garbage dump site in their village have found a strong ally in Lanao del Sur Governor Mamintal “Bombit” Alonto-Adiong Jr., who broke silence to intercede for propriety in the choice of project site.
Interviewed by phone Monday and Wednesday by the Philippine Muslim Today news, Gov. Adiong acknowledged the vitality of a safe dumpsite in Marawi City, admitting that Lanao del Sur has only two waste disposal management facilities located in Wao and Amai-Manabilang (formerly Bumbaran) towns.
“We really need a waste disposal facility such as the one proposed in Marawi, a component city of our province. But we have to ensure that the facility will be placed in a proper area and not risky to the health and wellbeing of residents,” Adiong said in the vernacular.
Gov. Adiong said some leaders of the protesting residents of Barangay Sugod Proper, one of Marawi City’s farming and fishing villages lying on the shore of Lake Lanao, met him over the weekend to complain of alleged railroading in the transfer of the P300-million proposed project site from Barangay Malimono to their village.
The project has been programmed by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) as a component of the package of rehabilitation efforts for war-torn Marawi City. It was originally designed for Barangay Malimono in Marawi City where the DENR found a 31.7-hectare project site with P60-million allocation to purchase the lot, it was learned.
Earlier, City Mayor Majul Gandamra told the Philippine Muslim Today news that part of the P60-million was already paid out for the Malimono site. But he said government workers were prevented by residents to step on the site, and that a “large portion” of such site was discovered to be part of nearby Kapai town, Lanao del Sur.
Gandamra said the Malimono situation prompted the Sangguniang Panglungsod to pass a measure authorizing the transfer of the project site to Barangay Sugod Proper, where the city government found a 20-hectare for the project.
A leader from Barangay Sugod had reportedly sold the lot to the city government, not knowing that his land would be used as a garbage dump site, protesting residents said in social media posts.
The city SP resolution was received last Jan. 14 by the DENR Region 10 office. On Jan. 19, DENR Undersecretary Jim Sampulna, being the agency’s focal person to Task Force Bangon Marawi (RFBM) rehab efforts, “approved” the SP resolution-desired transfer of site to Barangay Sugod Proper, official data showed.
On Feb. 22, according to the same DENR data showed, a “contractor site assessment and survey in the new site.” But a similar protest has been raised by residents, who complained that pursuing such a project in the new site is also improper because it is higher in elevation over residential areas.
Besides, protesters said, the site is not only adjacent to the shore of Lake Lanao and solid or liquid wastes from the operation of a proposed dump site will be detrimental to their fishing and farming activities, not to mention hazards on residents’ health safety.
Reports reaching the Philippine Muslim Today news said the government and DENR officials staged consultative meetings on Feb. 13 and March 8. Supplied photos of the latest meeting showed City Vice Mayor Anuar Rumoros, representatives of DENR’s Environment Management Bureau (EMB) and leaders of protesting people in attendance.
In a supplied video footage, an EMB representative admitted that the project site is “10-meter higher” than lands with residential areas.
The March 8 meeting winded up without a consensus among people in attendance, even as protesters said the city government and DENR would call for another conference to strike an agreement, which described as “impossible” for the same hazard-prone spot.
Acid test between DENR and MENRE
Protesters said they saw an “acid test” as to which of the DENR or the Bangsamoro region’s Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources and Energy (MENRE) has the jurisdiction over the issue.
Parts of DENR functions have been devolved to the Bangsamoro government a few weeks upon its inauguration by the President on March 29, 2019. As far as protecting the watersheds and ecology of Lake Lanao, excluding the hydro power-generating facet of the water body, is now under the jurisdiction of the autonomous government’s MENRE.
The national government has also included the Bangsamoro government as member-entity of the TFBM as of 2020 -a fact deemed by protesters as a factor making DENR Usec. Sampulna’s approval of the site transfer “improper.”
The Philippine Muslim Today news tried but failed to words from MENRE Minister Abdulraof Macacua and Usec. Sampulna.
Gov. Adiong said all succeeding consultative meetings should be attended by policy-determining officials like Minister Macacua, Sanmpulna and Mayor Gandamra, who could promptly provide decisive remarks on the spot.
Mayor Gandamra earlier said the city government “will not allow” project-impeding protest from residents, explaining that the proposed waste disposal management project would be built with “new modern technology” that will ensure no hazards accruing to residential communities.
But Gov. Adiong’s perceived impropriety of the Baragay Sugod Proper site and pronouncement for consideration of residents’ protest put him in collision against the city mayor. Gandamra and Adiong were political allies in the 2019 elections.
The governor’s appeared to be equally firm for the welfare of the people of the protesting village, a home place of his late father – former Governor and Congressman Mamintal Adiong Sr. (AGM)