NBI case vs. city basoreros junked

DUMAGUETE CITY – All charges against seven employees of the Environment and Natural Office of the City Government of Dumaguete and three private persons filed by the National Bureau of Investigation-Environmental Crime Division of National Capital Region and DENR-EMB Manila were dismissed by no less than four City Prosecutors for lack of probable cause.

The four City Prosecutors dismissed the allegations by the NBI and DENR EMB, both based in Manila for alleged violations of RA 9003 (Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000) and Sec 107 of RA 8550 ad amended by RA 10654 (Phil Fisheries Code of 1998) because of the following reasons:

1. That the alleged garbage in the seized vehicles were not yet actually be dumped at the time of the basorero’s arrest;
2. Thus, the basoreros-accused could not have introduced substances to the aquatic environment;
3. Moreover, nothing has been shown that any dumping of garbage in the dumpsite has introduced harmful substances into the nearby Banica River as charged… as written on page 12 of the joint resolution of the four city fiscals of Dumaguete.

The four city prosecutors who dismissed the NBI DENR case against the basoreros were:

Associate Prosecutors Charina Cortes-Garces; Ryan Buenavista and Leonardo Mandajoyan as approved by City chief Prosecutor Josephy Arnel Zerna.

Government Prosecutors ruled that there is no proof and there is absence of sufficient evidence that the respondents established and operated the alleged illegal dumpsite; or that they had actually transported and dumped in bulk the collected wastes or finally, that they have caused actual aquatic pollution in the area.

They were mere city workers and obeyed what was ordered for them to do. They should have charged top city hall policy makers and not basoreros, one citizen taxpayer quipped.

In the same joint resolution dated December 2, 2019, Prosecutors Ryan Buenavista, Leonardo E. Mandajoyan, Angela Charina M. Cortes-Garces duly approved by Joseph Arnel M. Zerna, all four noted:

That the NBI agents apparently did not know that the City of Dumaguete was already in the process of fixing the 50-year old environmental mess. The NBI from Manila only learned last October 3 that the City Government is already implementing the safe closure and rehabilitation plan of the Candau-ay dumpsite, as approved by their own DENR agency and EMB.

Quite surprisingly, the DENR EMB who attested in support of the NBI complaint did not come from Region 7 in Central Visayas but from Region 3 in Central Luzon,” the prosecutors added.

The respondents-basorerors or garbage workers, whose cases were dismissed by the four City Prosecutors are:

Ramonito U. Larena, Anjoe Malolot Naguit, Maria Melinda Jalandoni Sarne, Junmar Andres Futalan, Jesus Kilapkilap Lazaga, Anthony Van Larayos Vendiola, Arnold Decampo Loyola of the City ENRO; Felix B. Caro Jr., driver of Barangay Junob LGU; and private persons Ruel P. Caro and Reynato Raul Y. Ozoa.

Quoting the four City prosecutors in dismissing the second charge of committing aquatic pollution, the fiscals ruled that “there is nothing to show that any dumping of garbage in the dumpsite on October 3, 2019 had, in fact, introduced harmful substances into the nearby Banica River. More importantly, the fact of actual aquatic pollution has not been sufficiently established by evidence.”

In defence of his role as site supervisor, Ramonito Larena, testified that the safe closure and rehabilitation plan of the Candau-ay dumpsite is already in progress and being implemented with the knowledge and approval of the DENR.

In fact the process is executed in stages, given the gravity of the situation, the City ‘already purchased lots in Candau-ay for the MRFs and Sanitary Landfill projects. In fact, the DENR has even pledged to grant the City financial assistance amounting to eight (8) million pesos to aid in this difficult process. Why did the NBI stop the ongoing process?

Based on the records, the City administration has already allocated a total of P 93. 5 million for the required civil works, procurement of heavy equipment and activities in line with the Safe Closure and Rehabilitation Plan of the Candauay dumpsite submitted by Mayor Felipe Antonio Remollo and by approved by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

What was the NBI really after, flying all the way from Manila saying that they were just here to arrest basoreros? Why did they not arrest high city officials if there was indeed something illegal going on?

What resulted was that the basoreros were released the next day, and the case against them were all dismissed by four city prosecutors. What was the fuss all about, one taxpayer asked?

FIXING THE MESS

Among the ON-GOING activities and procurement related to the closure of the dumpsite include: Site grading stabilization and final cover of dumpsite, P2.8 million; Construction of peripheral canal, P4.9 million; Construction of recirculation tank, P 650, 000; Asphalting of road at dumpsite, P1.2 million; Construction of perimeter fence, P980, 000; Construction of guard house, P108, 000; Installation of signage at dumpsite, P65, 000; Installation of gas ventilation system, P 125, 000; Installation of perimeter lighting, P375, 000; Construction of groundwater monitoring wells, P900, 000; Construction of Materials Recovery Facility at SLF site, P7.3 million; Purchase of brand new equipment for the operations of MRF, P 15 million; Establishment and construction of categorized final disposal facility (sanitary landfill), P20.7 million; Improvement and rehabilitation of controlled dumpsite and disposal system, P7 million and purchase of additional equipment for the improvement and rehabilitation of controlled dumpsite and disposal system P26 million.

Meanwhile, civil works continue for the P 7 million Central Materials Recovery Facility in the 8-hectare lot in Barangay Candau-ay that will serve as the site for both the MRF and sanitary landfill upon the closure of the dumpsite.

The Central MRF, which was also approved by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, is now 35% complete, according to proponent Engr. Leticia Duran.

The City Government has been in constant communication with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to comply with the ways and means for the responsible closure of the decades-old dumpsite in accordance to the Safe Closure and Rehabilitation Plan duly approved by the agency.