THE Court of Appeals (CA) has junked a petition filed by a group of residents in Obando, Bulacan against the establishment of an engineered modern sanitary landfill in the town.
In a 90-page decision penned by Associate Justice Priscilla Baltazar-Padilla and concurred in by Associate Justices Jose Reyes, Jr. and Agnes Reyes Carpio, the CA’s former 10th Division dismissed the petition for the issuance of a Writ of Kalikasan with prayer for the issuance of Temporary Environmental Protection Order (TEPO) under the Rules of Procedure of Environmental Cases filed by the Concerned Citizens of Obando led by one Maria Theresa Bondoc.
The CA declared that the Ecoshield Obando project of business magnate and former Ambassador Antonio Cabangon-Chua and his son Edgard Cabangon is legal.
The CA ruled that Ecoshield Obando project is far much environmentally safe than other dumpsites which was even compared with Phileco Navotas landfill that was complained of for its bad effects to the health of the residents.
On October 13, 2008, Ecoshield Development Corporation (EDC) requested the Mines and Geosciences Bureau-Region III (MGB-RIII) for the conduct of geological site scoping for the proposed sanitary landfill, a 44-hectare land owned by EDC, at Barangay Salambao, Obando.
It submitted an application for the issuance of Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) and the Initial Environmental Examination Report (IEER) prepared by Lichel, Inc. to MGB-RIII.
Based on the IEER, the components of the landfill project include leachate treatment plant, storm water detention pond, wetland treatment area, materials recovery facility soil stockpile area, waste cells and barge docking area.
On December 22, 2010, the Sangguniang Barangay of Salambao approved EDC’s application. On its part, the Sangguniang Bayan (SB) of Obando issued a resolution on January 24, 2011 allowing EDC to construct and operate a landfill.
On February 7, 2011, the SB allowed EDC to process reclassification of the project site from agriculture to commercial/industrial. On March 8, 2011, Mayor Orencio Gabriel approved and signed both resolutions and ordinance.
The petitioners challenged the propriety of the actions of the local officials and appealed before Bulacan Governor Wilhermino Sy-Alvarado to stop the implementation of the project.
As per her Judicial Affidavit and further direct testimony, Bondoc stated that sometime in October 2011, she received reports that a crane was already being transported to the area using a barge. Then came Typhoon Pedring that brought floods in Bulacan.
Days after the calamity, they were dismayed to know that Obando officials were rushing to sign a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) with EDC instead of paying attention to the need of their constituents. This prompted Bondoc and her group to file the petition with the Supreme Court (SC). It later passed the ball to the appeals court for it to resolve the case.
The CA gave credence of Architect Rafael Tecson, EDC’s Executive Vice President and General Manager and Treasurer Benjamin Ramos after they testified that while the well-designed engineered sanitary landfill is a latent fair investment, it would also help address solid waste management problems in Obando.
Ramos said that it already overshoot the budget and as of June 2013, the investment was already about P500 million.
In denying the privilege of a Writ of Kalikasan, the CA in the August 29, 2014 ruling held that the plea “does not involve an environmental damage of such magnitude [raised by the petitioners]to warrant the issuance of [such writ.]”
The CA said that such writ is available “when there is such a significant degree of environmental damage as to prejudice the life, health, and property of inhabitants in two or more cities or provinces.”
It stated that “the reclassification of the land from agricultural to commercial is valid.”
“We cannot nullify the entire process of reclassification and declare [it invalid]base on the mere fact that the recommendation came from the Executive Committee of the MDC instead of the MDC itself,” the CA said.
“It should be noted that all of the required documents were submitted and the procedure was substantially complied with.”
The appeals court said that the landfill is suited for its locations as it was set up on a body of water that was dried up, shored and fenced around.
“One of the reasons the EMB issued the ECC in favor of EDC is the fact that the location of the proposed sanitary landfill conforms with the minimum siting criteria and the minimum design criteria set under RA 9003,” the Court said.
The CA stressed that an environmental impact statement and public consultation are not required.
On the other hand, the appellate court opined that the landfill does not run counter to the continuing mandamus issued by the High Court in “MMDA vs. Concerned Residents of Manila Bay.”
“The establishment of the proposed sanitary landfill as a solution to deter the continuous and persisting waste disposal problem of Metro Manila is, in fact, evident from the pronouncement of the Supreme Court in the MMDA case,” it stated.
According to the CA, the protection of the environment, through the putting up of a pollution control facility like a landfill, should not be postponed because “there is a big threat to the environment due to illegal and indiscriminate dumping.”
While the technology was not absolutely proven, the CA said, “this reason should not be interposed to delay the construction of the sanitary landfill.”
“It is time to give the project a chance to carry out its commitment to resurrect this waterway and provide solutions for proper garbage disposal”.