CEBU CITY, Philippines- Contrary to the fears of its critics, the Binaliw landfill facility is for the good of the Cebuanos. “We are just trying to help the entire Metro Cebu because if we shut this entire facility down, even if we will never open at all, where will we throw the garbage?” Sherwin Santos, the President and Executive Director of ARN Central Waste Management Inc. that operates the much talked about Binaliw Landfill told iNews.Ph.

Santos said their facility would have to operate yet next month but they have to opened it earlier as an act of “emergency response to a disaster” when the private landfill in Consolacion ceased as per order of the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) after a garbage slide last May there buried alive a dump truck driver.

The tons of garbage from Consolacion was already in advance state of decomposition, he explained, which may have caused the odor that the residents were initially complaining but Santos said these were already addressed by them. Right now, the petition against the landfill operation is misplaced because the allegation about having “intolerable smell” is not true at all.

“Intolerable smell, that is you’ve come to a point when you are suffocating, your body can not already tolerate the smell that if you stay longer in the system you die. You can not survive already. If we qualify intolerable smell that means you are in a gas chamber. That is just a play of words,” Santos said.

About the complaint of alleged swarming of flies, this has been acted immediately by spraying chemicals to the trash once it will arrive in their facility, neutralizing the odor right away. In their complaint to EMB-7 Regional Director William Cunado, Binaliw Barangay Councilor Daisy Ybanez pointed out to the EMB the “intolerable odor” and “alleged increase in respiratory illness of residents near the landfill area.”

Because of the complaint of Ybanez and a group of residents near the landfill site, a technical meeting was presided over by Cunado last week which gave ARN 100 days to finish its material recovery facility (MRF) based on the Environmental Clearance Certificate (ECC) that was issued to them.

It was not immediately known whether the concerns that were aired by Ybanez and the rest of the barangay councilors of Binaliw were adequately addressed however whom Ybanez said was their action for and in behalf of their residents who complained. “We are the barangay officials concerned so we have to act. It is our responsibility to hear the complaints of our people,” Ybanez said.

Apart from Ybanez, those that signed the complaint were councilors Renato Seno, Edmund Biano, Sante Cabrera, Ronald Mingo, and SK chairman Kissy Amour Bacor as Barangay Captain Vivian Ruste is agreeable to the facility. A group calling itself as Protect Binaliw Movement was also organized apart from some of those that relocated from Barangay Apas, Mabolo and T. Padilla led by Rosalinda Leogan which gathered signatures in its petition to stop the dumping of the garbage in the facility.

Leogan’s group sought the help of incoming City Mayor Edgardo Labella asking him to act to stop the dumping of garbage in what they termed as “dump site.” “We would like to seek help from your good office to stop the dumping of garbage in Barangay Binaliw. Sta. Ana relocation site is just a few meters from the dumping site,” a part of their letter to Labella reads citing foul smell and presence of flies in their place since the facility operated.

Another resident, retired Colonel Jeffrey Omandam of San Lorenzo Village claimed that the water source of residents who are living in low lying areas near the landfill might be contaminated because of the leachate that will penetrate the groundwater and thus flow downstream especially on rainy days.

“The issue here is the health of the people. They should address that before it will explode,” Omandam told iNews.Ph in a mix of Cebuano and English. But according to Santos, aside from preventing the flies and neutralizing the smell, their operation is environmentally sound as leachate can be contained as they put up an impermeable geotextile made up of High-density polyethylene (HDPE), a linear lining or matting that protects the groundwater.

“All their concerns has been technically addressed already,” Santos told iNews.Ph, adding, to avoid the leachate of garbage and odor from dump trucks, they have already told their private haulers to made use of compactor trucks and spray a chemical on their hauled garbage before proceeding to their facility.

Santos said they also have a wash bay area and a leachate pond for trucks so that it would be clean upon their return to their area of operations. The ARN executive also clarified that contrary to perceptions, their facility is not an open dumpsite since what they are doing is just temporary because of what happened in Consolacion. Once processed, the trash is being compacted and covered with soil on a daily basis.

One vital component of their operation, he added, is the utilization of what used to be the “scavengers” in the closed Inayawan dumpsite who are now there material recovery attendants that segregate the recyclables from the trash. ARN Central is paying them even if they also allowed them to sell the recyclables to junk shops and divide among themselves their sales.

“There is a world of difference between a dumpsite and an engineered sanitary landfill, more so our facility is not an open dumpsite. Ours is we do processing, earth protection, leachate management, soil coverage, defiled layering,” Santos clarified. According to Santos once all their machines and facilities will be in place, the processing will be done in one area that will accommodate all the garbage trucks that will arrive and all the garbage will be placed to an incinerator called the pyrolysis machine to convert them into a crusty charcoal material which can be made as organic fertilizers and cement additives after it will be shredded.

That makes their facility totally different from what has been done in the Inayawan dumpsite, Payatas in Manila and even in Consolacion, Santos further explained. In the coming years, ARN is making their facility as makers of waste to energy (WTE) which could lead to a cheap supply of electricity for Cebu consumers. “We would have something that will be a cheap source of electricity, having waste to energy,” Santos revealed.

They would also construct a park within the facility for public use and tourist attraction, making sort of what Semakau Landfill is, in Singapore. Not only Cebu City residents could benefit from their facility, Santos added, since it has a capacity that is large enough to even accommodate the other Metro Cebu local government units (LGU’s), even including the towns in Cebu province. For now, including the solid waste from Consolacion and Mandaue City, its usage is just about 1/10th (300 metric tons) of the 3,000MT capacity of what he calls as their “Material Recovery Facility and Engineered Sanitary Landfill.”

“I think this is the nicest smelling landfill that you will see and the most well kept as far as the management is concerned. This is noble because this is zero waste management,” Santos, the University of Chicago, USA educated ARN executive told iNews.Ph. The landfill sits on a 15-hectare lot but only about 1.7 hectares is just being utilized, it was learned. /Tonton Alcos Antogop