PADLOCKED. Hermosa, Bataan Mayor Antonio Joseph Inton shows the key after padlocking the gate of the Econest Waste Management Corporation facility in Barangay Mambog of the said town on Thursday (Feb. 20, 2020). The mayor personally served the closure order to Econest Waste Management Corporation for alleged violation of environmental laws. (Photo by Ernie Esconde)

HERMOSA, Bataan -- Mayor Antonio Joseph Inton padlocked on Thursday the province’s only sanitary landfill facility (SLF) for alleged violation of environmental laws.

The mayor personally served the closure order to Econest Waste Management Corporation, operator of the Hermosa sanitary landfill facility in Barangay Mambog here.

A staff of the company received a copy of the order in the absence of lawyer Beulah Coeli Fiel, president and chief operating officer of Econest, and other officials.

“Ngayong araw na ito, inisyuhan natin ang operator ng (today we issue the operator of) Hermosa sanitary landfill the stoppage of operation which is temporary in nature in view of the investigation being conducted by Department of Environment and Natural-Environmental Management Bureau (DENR-EMB) dahil sa kanilang mga violation (because of their violations),” Inton said.

He said the municipal government also issued a notice of violation (NOV) last January 28, while the DENR-EMB issued its own NOV on February 13.

Inton said he wanted to inform everyone that the operation of Econest is under a public-private-partnership (PPP) with the municipal government of Hermosa.

“This is not a private entity that’s why the municipal government has the right to close or stop whatever operation that is harmful to the environment for the welfare of the people. While we are waiting for the technical conference of the DENR-EMB and we are conducting other investigation on their violations, let us stop the operation for the meantime effective today),” he said.

Inton said the sanitary landfill operator is continuously polluting the environment.

Econest, however, claimed it has not committed violations of the environmental law.

Fiel said they were surprised that the NOV of EMB was just a repetition of that listed in the show cause order of the Hermosa LGU that they have answered, with a copy furnished to the EMB.

“On the issue that Econest does not have a discharge permit and not registered as hazardous waste generator, we never intentionally discharged wastewater. We are currently applying for a discharge permit after we have passed laboratory testing,” she said.

Fiel said the LGU based its finding on “unavoidably and unintentional overflow of the leachate.”

“Sa kasalukuyan ay pending ang aming application for discharge permit kasi lumalabas na ang laboratory test ng aming treated waste water ay pumasa sa lahat ng maraming parameters under EMB standards (our discharge permit is pending because laboratory test showed that our treated water has passed all the parameters under EMB standards),” she said.

On the issue that the earthen lagoon and temporary cell for compostable waste do not have lining, thus allowing the leachate to seep into the soil, Fiel said the right handling of biodegradable waste, aside from having it separate from non-biodegradable waste, was intended to ripen it to be turned into fertilizer.

Fiel said that EMB inspected the facility in December 2019 and again on January 30, 2020 and issued no negative findings. 

The EMB, she said, even recommended the Hermosa sanitary landfill for benchmarking by other LGUs that desire to operate their own SLFs.

“Dahil abogada ako at nakataya diyan ang aking lisensiya, mas malaki ang aking dahilan para sumunod sa batas kasi kung halimbawang mawala sa akin ang proyektong ito, maski papaano makakakain pa rin ako (Because I am a lawyer and my license is at stake, the more reason that I have to follow the law so that if I lose the project, more or less I still can eat),” Fiel added.

She said that they accept waste from the towns of Hermosa, Orani, Samal and Balanga in Bataan and also Castillejos, San Marcelino, San Narciso, San Antonio, San Felipe, Cabangan, Botolan, Masinloc, Iba and Palawig in Zambales.

She belied allegations that they receive waste from Quezon City or Laguna but she made it clear that their contract does not prohibit acceptance of garbage from areas outside Bataan.

Fiel said if the LGU no longer wants them as partner, they are willing to leave, provided their investment will be returned to them.

“Gusto lang namin makaalis ng matiwasay. Nagko-compute kami. Bibigyan namin ang isa’t isa na makita at mabuksan ang libro nang magkakwentahan (We just want to leave peacefully. We are computing so each one of us can open the books),” she said.

“Kung mabibigyan kami ng isa pang taon na mamahala ay maaaring ma-recover pa namin pero puhunan lang yon (If we can be given another year to operate, we may be able to recover but only the capital),” Fiel added.

She said she is still hopeful that everything will be settled. (PNA)