PAOMBONG, Bulacan – The Office of the Ombudsman announced Thursday it has found probable cause to charge former mayor Isagani Castro and 10 other local officials of Paombong, Bulacan, with violation of Section 48(9) in relation to Sections 37 and 49(d) of Republic Act No. 9003 (Ecological Solid Waste Management Act).
Included in the indictment are former vice-mayor Marisa Ramos, Sangguniang Bayan (SB) members Myrna Valencia, Luisito Arellano, Francisco Valencia, Maximo Tanghal, Reynaldo Sulit, Arnaldo Mendoza, James Jester Santos, Zoilo Estrella, and Municipal Environment and Natural Resources Officer (MENRO) Marciana Tanghal.
In the related administrative case, incumbent SB members Mendoza, Santos, Estrella and MENRO Tanghal were found guilty of Gross Neglect of Duty and were ordered suspended for one year.
In its complaint, the Special Panel of Investigators from the Environmental Ombudsman pointed out that respondents continued to allow the operation of an open dumpsite in violation of R.A. No. 9003. It found that as early as 2011, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources Regional Office (DENR RO) issued a Notice of Closure directing the local government unit (LGU) of Paombong to cease and desist from operating an open dumpsite located at Brgy. San Isidro II, Paombong, Bulacan, and cause its rehabilitation.
On 03 July 2015, inspectors from the Environmental Management Bureau Region III inspected the waste disposal facility and discovered that the municipality still maintained an illegal open dumpsite.
On 20 July 2015, the DENR RO once again ordered the closure of the dumpsite and directed them to ensure its full closure before the end of July 2015.
On 20 November 2015, an inspection and monitoring team from the DENR found that the dumpsite was still operational.
In August 2016, members from the Environmental Ombudsman team conducted a separate ocular inspection and found that the dumpsite is adjacent to the Labangan Channel (Angat River) and fishpond area located within a nearby residential area. The proximity of the garbage and fishpond is less than one meter with some garbage already reaching the waters of the Labangan Channel.
The team also found that trash was dumped without segregation.
A follow-up inspection was conducted on 06 October 2016 which yielded the same results.
The Ombudsman Resolution underscored that “the implementation and enforcement of R.A. No. 9003 is expressly conferred upon local government units. In this case, respondents, as the principal officials of the Municipality of Paombong, Bulacan, not only glaringly failed to perform their legal duty but likewise blatantly and with impunity violated the law by unabashedly operating an open dumpsite. The establishment and operation of open dumps by any person, including local government units, are prohibited and penalized under R.A. No. 9003. The provision became effective when the law took effect on 15 February 2001. Five years thereafter, [or in 2006], even the operation of controlled dumps was no longer allowed.”
“In this case, it has been established that as of 2017, the local government of Paombong Bulacan has been operating an open and controlled dumpsite for 12 long years,” added the Ombudsman Resolution.
Under Section 37 of R.A. No. 9003, no open dumps shall be established and operated, nor any practice or disposal of solid waste by any person, including LGUs, which constitute the use of open dumps for solid wastes, be allowed after the effectivity of the law; provided that within three years after the effectivity of the law, every LGU shall convert its open dumps into controlled dumps, in accordance with the guidelines set in Section 41 thereof; provided further that no controlled dumps shall be allowed five years following the effectivity of the law. [BicolToday.com]