METRO MANILA, February 3, 2004 (STAR) (AFP) By Nikko Dizon - Metro Manila was 25 percent cleaner in 2003 compared to the previous year, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Chairman Bayani Fernando announced yesterday.

"We have minimized the number of garbage piles especially on the main thoroughfares of Metro Manila. The streets are definitely cleaner," Fernando said at a press conference.

The result was determined using the monitoring system the MMDA’s Health Operations Center devised, he added.

Fernando gave credit to the local government units (LGUs) and the barangays that facilitated the garbage collection and the cleaning of their areas.

Fernando said the result was an "offshoot" of the Unified Garbage Collection scheme that the Metro Manila Council passed in August 2002 that required the households to put their garbage in front of their houses for collection.

"One reason for the (proliferation) of garbage piles is that people used to bring their garbage to the main thoroughfares for the collection," Fernando explained.

Fernando said he was hopeful Metro Manila can repeat this feat next year.

Since Fernando assumed office in July 2002, a 40-man MMDA monitoring team has gone around Metro Manila’s 1,693 barangays to count the garbage piles they literally see on the streets, Health Operations Center Executive Director, Dr. Liwanag Godinez, told reporters.

"He wanted us to mark with dots the vicinity maps of the place to indicate where we saw the garbage pile," Godinez said.

The monitoring team was later equipped with a video camera to document their observations.

The photos would be printed and be sent to the concerned mayors, along with a letter from the MMDA.

"The 25 percent figure is in fact, still modest. I believe we are using an effective monitoring system because the mayors are alerted. We are very specific in our reports, indicating the exact date, time and address where we saw the garbage pile," Godinez said.

Godinez noted that after reporting to the mayors, the MMDA team would see an improvement in the dirty areas.

Aside from the door-to-door collection policy and the MMDA’s regular monitoring, Godinez said the MMDA’s "Pangit" posters pasted on dirty spots and the recently concluded search for the cleanest and dirtiest barangays were also the reasons for having cleaner streets.

"The barangay captains did not want to be sanctioned," Godinez said.

But Fernando, at the press conference, said the MMDA decided not to have the heads of the dirty barangays sanctioned by the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) anymore.

"Instead of penalizing them, we have to assist these barangays to make them the model barangays. We have to take a positive approach. We will help them get to have a feel of a clean barangay, uplift their standards, and change their lifestyles," Fernando said.

He declined to name the dirty barangays.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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