Ombudsman probes LGUs with illegal dumpsites

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) –  Over 70 officials of local-government units (LGU) in Luzon may face criminal and administrative charges for maintaining open dumpsites in their municipalities.

Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon Gerard Mosquera said in a press briefing Tuesday that his office, the Environmental Ombudsman Team, is investigating officials from Taytay in Rizal and from Silang, Kawit, General Trias, Trece Martires and Ternate in Cavite for violating Republic Act 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000 that has banned the operation of open dumpsites since 2003.

Under Section 37 of the law, open dumpsites must be converted into sanitary landfills, which include infrastructure and covers to prevent air, water and ground pollution.

Mosquera said one of the offenses that could be filed against them is gross neglect of duty for failure to implement the law, which has a maximum penalty of dismissal from public service and a perpetual disqualification from holding public office.

The cases involving the municipalities in Cavite and Rizal are just part of 50 complaints filed by the National Solid Waste Management Commission of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, which is tasked with monitoring the compliance of LGUs with the law, against nearly 600 local-government officials nationwide.

Read: Gov't cracks down on local officials alleged of violating Solid Waste Management Act

"The time for accountability has come and the complaint has been filed and we, the Ombudsman, are aggressively investigating these complaints and if we find that there are violations of the law particularly in the maintenance of open dumpsites," Mosquera said. "Appropriate criminal and administrative charges will be filed also in the office of the Ombudsman."

Mosquera also said among the six Cavite municipalities, only Silang, General Trias and Kawit participated in the fact-finding hearings this week and submitted plans to shut down their open dumpsites. He said officials of the other municipalities that did not comply will be charged.

Mosquera said the Environmental Ombudsman Team will monitor activities of the LGUs under investigation and ensure that R.A. 9003 and other environmental laws are fully implemented.

In a press statement, the Ombudsman said it helped close three open dumpsites in the municipalities of Hindang and Bato in Leyte and the municipality of Catarman in the Northern Samar in May after a complaint had been filed in February.