Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Writer's Block: Talking Trash

Yesterday, I came across a photo of a mountain of trash waiting to be collected at Igorot Park, right smack in downtown Baguio City.

Baguio just celebrated it's centennial, leaving an aftermath of trash heaps here and there. But this is not an isolated case, and after a hundred years -- you'd like to think the local government would be mature enough to take care of this mess.

So now allow me to talk trash, literally. I love my Baguio, and I am saddened to see what it is becoming. Not so long ago, this haven that was beaming with pride as the "Cleanest and Greenest' highly urbanized city, is now among the filthiest -- all thanks to a good heaping of corruption.

What is sadder is the fact that we saw this coming.

The trash issue was already flagged many years ago at the city council meeting. Irisan was reaching its capacity, and there were no alternative dumpsites.

The city was then implementing waste segregation and had plans of setting up a recycling center, at least that was according to then Mayor Domogan (now Congressman). But the city had no funds to set up, much more, purchase an incinerator that can convert trash into energy.

City officials flew to Japan to study their garbage disposal system, but sadly to no avail. So the city mulled plans to privatize garbage collection -- something opposed by garbage collectors who would likely be out of the job if it pulls through.

The proposal for privatization and alternative dumpsites was referred to a committee, and was forgotten -- along with all the other things that are referred to a committee.

That's how the city gets out of sticky situations. They debate about it and refer an issue to a committee for further study or investigation, and you can kiss that sticky topic goodbye.

Problem is, the things you try to stuff into a dark attic do not necessarily go away.

I've been living away from Baguio for five years now, and am saddened by what has become of my home.

During my last trip there nearly two years ago, I was dumbfounded to find the city's main thoroughfare overflowing with trash. Only a few years ago, there were trash bins on every corner.

We had no funds, but plenty to build an ugly billion-peso cement pine tree atop Session Road. (No it is not beautiful; yes -- only God can make a tree; and no , I will not heed to the message 'Plant Me -V- and Protect Me" because I prefer to plant real trees)

We have no funds, but had the 88-million peso surplus from the Marcos Highway Rehabilitation Fund to create a flyover to nowhere in the middle of a non-congested watershed area that generates 35 gallons of water per minute.

Yes, I forget -- it would have been a case of mis-allocated funds -- corruption. JICA would never have stood for it.

Nearly 10 years later, city officials are still looking into this, and have not come close to a solution. And yet, they were so quick to act on approving Jadewell's contract to make money out of the city's roads.

Yes, thankfully Jadewell is long gone, but the trash problem has been around long before parking was even an issue. Residents are angry and frustrated. They have every right to be.

The elections are coming once again, and if only to save their hides -- city officials need to stop bickering and finally come up with a real, long-term solution before Baguio literally ends up in the dumps.

Baguio is a beautiful place -- and from my travels, I know it is unique. I love it, so I cannot detach myself from what I know is going on in my home -- no matter how far removed I am from it. I want to see my Baguio beautiful again, although the past cannot be undone, I want my home to be clean and still smell of pine after it rains.

It's been nearly 10 years. At least do something. -wmf