Environmental Management Bureau Director Letecia Maceda.
Environmental Management Bureau Director Letecia Maceda.

TACLOBAN CITY, June 7 (PNA) — Local government units (LGUs) officials in Eastern Visayas are facing criminal and administrative charges at the Office of the Environmental Ombudsman for operating open dumpsites.

Those involved are mayors, vice mayors, town councilors and environment officers of Catarman, Northern Samar; Bato, Leyte; and Hindang, Leyte.

Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) Regional Director Letecia Maceda said the towns were among those areas found to have been insistently operating an open dumpsites and failed to comply the solid waste management standards under the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act or Republic Act No. 9003.

Maceda stressed that these were not yet full blown administrative and criminal cases, but rather complaints for fact-finding investigations and the Ombudsman will gather evidence to determine if conduct of full investigation is needed.

“We need to take action against these open landfills that cause environmental disasters,” Maceda said.

Erring local government officials said it is hard to comply with the law due to lack of funds, high cost of land acquisitions and the huge of volume of garbage.

Maceda clarified that filing of cases against local officials is not a “scare tactic.”

“We want to instill to them the need for action and we strengthen their hand and support them when they’re doing good,” she added.

Officials will be given the opportunity to remedy the situation by submitting the corrective action plans within six months and to implement the plans afterward.

“And if there’s no action yet and no implementation of corrective action plan or there’s only partial compliance, a full blown administrative case or even criminal case will be filled against them,” Maceda said.

The EMB earlier endorsed six other LGUs in the region to the National Solid Waste Management Commission for evaluation and filing complaints at the Environment Ombudsman for violation to waste management law.

These are Matalom, Leyte; Paranas, Hinabangan, Marabut , and Jiabong in Samar; and Salcedo, Eastern Samar.

EMB records show that there are still 122 cities and towns in Eastern Visayas operating open dumpsites – six in Biliran, 33 in Leyte, 16 in Southern Leyte, 24 in Samar, 22 in Eastern Samar, and 21 in Northern Samar. (PNA)