Garbage and road obstructions

By Modesto P. Sa-onoy

The Department of the Interior and Local Governments has been taking the pace set by President Rodrigo Duterte on public behavior. Two things had been initiated – proper and effective collection of garbage and the removal of road and pedestrian obstructions.

But local governments had been taking a turtle pace approach asking for one deadline to another and making deceptive reports of performance. The DILG conceded to these requests and so the problem remains. The ningas cogon attitude prevails because the DILG and the local governments it supervises are creating the sluggish problem they intend to solve.

So here we have in Bacolod and I can see in other towns and cities as well, that the Liga ng Mga Barangay are asking to postpone for the nth time the enforcement of the law mandating the super-ambitious order of “no segregation, no collection” policy. The latest for this year is March and now, its April. The reason for the postponement is as shallow as the water in a drizzle – they have “on ongoing major programs and activities of all the barangays in Bacolod.”

The Liga cited the monitoring and preparations against the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and African Swine Fever (ASF), drug-clearing operations, anti-illegal gambling operations, and road-clearing operations.

When was it ever that the barangays have no major programs and activities? If these be the reasons, then the order for the clearing of obstructions and the unenforceable garbage collection policy will never be implemented. Of course, Mayor Evelio Leonardia has also no choice not only because these barangay officials are his field commanders during the elections but because he knows the impossibility of forcing them to comply with the law. He, however, placed a condition – this would be the last postponement. We hope so.

Leonardia praised what he said the eleven barangays out of sixty-one that had already started the no segregation no collection policy on March 1.

The “no segregation, no collection” policy is mandated by R.A. 9003, or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000. Note that the law was passed ten years ago but the DILG had not made a dent into the garbage collection situation and even the dump sites and now the enforcement is postponed again.

Now here’s another situation. According to the Bacolod Executive Assistant Butch Soliguen, cluster head on social services and barangay affairs, while all barangays are required to submit their monthly road clearing report operations within their areas of jurisdiction by March 3, “some of the barangays still failed to submit their monthly report.” He said as of February 27, only 23 of 61 barangays managed to submit their monthly report to the City Mayor’s Office. The barangays were given until March 3 to submit their performance report in accordance with the order of the DILG for them to submit a monthly report. That order was last year and yet, have the erring barangays been charged as declared by DILG? In fact, how many times have DILG threatened to file charges? Has anybody been charged or suspended even for a day?

On his part, Leonardia was quoted by the press saying he had earlier warned the barangay officials to submit correct reports on road clearing operations within their areas of jurisdiction. This was the mayor’s response after the DILG directed all the local government units to continue the implementation of the road clearing directive and to ensure that their efforts to maintain cleared roads are sustained. He noted that “this is the second round of road clearing operations and all the barangays were required to submit their accomplishments on the demolition of illegal structures in their barangays.”

Now that some barangays had failed to submit a report because they claim they faced this and that problem, what will the DILG or the mayor do? Aside from just collecting reports and issuing press statements, what was done to enforce the law? That question is for the DILG and the mayor who is also just as liable as his barangays.

Of course, Bacolod reported last year that it has 87% performance, but we don’t know the basis because there are still numerous illegal obstructions. Debris from the demolished structures had been left where they fell and continue to obstruct and pose as hazards.

We understood “clearing” as what it means; demolished perhaps but not cleared.