GOVT CONFIRMS CLARK 'S TEMPORARY USE FOR TRASH
Manila, Jan. 13, 2001 - Malacanang yesterday confirmed the mounting piles of trash in Metro Manila would be temporarily dumped in the landfill site of the former US-controlled Clark Air Base in Pampanga until the legal issues on the plan to use the Semirara Island in Antique are settled.
Presidential adviser for flagship projects Robert Aventajado disclosed this yesterday even as he admitted that the garbage crisis in the metropolis has become a political issue due to the approaching May l4 polls this year.
In Caluya, Antique, a Roman Catholic priest said heavily armed civilian guards of the Consunji-owned Semirara Coal Corp used bulldozers to demolish picket lines and forced about l00 protesters to move away.
Fr. Mark Matillano told THE MANILA TIMES by phone that the guards explained they had to demolish the picket lines because these were encroaching on private property.
“Despite protests from the members of the United Antiquenos (opposed to the use of Semirara as dumping ground), the bulldozers tore down the picket lines established (on the coastal hamlet of Dapdap on the western side of the island),” according to Matillano.
This developed as Aventajado, who was tasked to handle the garbage problem, said trucks have actually begun hauling Manila’s trash to the facility, now being developed into a commercial-industrial hub.
President Estrada ordered Thursday the suspension of a plan to dump Manila’s garbage on Semirara Island until a legal battle is settled.
The Chief Executive issued the directive in an apparent reaction to the opposition to the proposed dumpsite by the officials and residents of the islands, as well as nearby areas.
Executive Secretary Edgardo Angara said that several areas near the metropolis are now being considered as alternative dumpsites, which Palace insiders told THE MANILA TIMES referred to military camps in Luzon, including the Clark Air base.
A regional court temporarily halted the use of a coalmine pit on Semirara Island as a dumping ground because of a petition by local residents fearing possible environmental disaster.
Metropolitan Manila officials have appealed the court order, but residents and officials of Antique and neighboring provinces vowed to resist the use of the island as a dumpsite even in the event the restraining order is lifted.
Aventajado chided officials in Metro Manila and Antique for their “sudden” indecisiveness in resolving the garbage crisis, saying that this must have something to do with the approaching May 14 national and local elections this year.
“They have converted the Metro garbage crisis into a political issue,” Aventajado said, noting that majority of these local officials, from governors to mayors, plan to seek reelection, thus “they’re playing safe and refuse to move.”
He described the officials’ actuations as “sheer politicking.”
He cited Antique’s officials who had earlier supported the Semirara dumpsite project but “suddenly kept quiet when the project met opposition from some quarters in the province.” (By John Anthony Concepcion, Reporter and Herman M. Lagon and Rexcel J. Sorza)
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