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By Stephen J Pedroza

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines — School administrators at the Xavier University – Pueblo campus have launched a signature campaign seeking actions to resolve the unbearable smell caused by the city dump.

In a letter to Cagayan de Oro City Mayor Oscar Moreno, the XU Grade School top administrators described the stench from the Zayas Landfill as “repulsive, disgusting, and nauseating.”

“The Xavier University – Pueblo campus (grade school and high school) has been greatly affected by the foul smell emitting from the Zayas Landfill since the second week of January 2016,” wrote Liz Bautista, assistant principal for administration of XUGS-Pueblo.

“The pupils’ learning is hampered because it [the smell] becomes more distinct and intense each day,” she added.

“Together with the Pueblo residents, we would like to make an appeal to the city government to come up with concrete measures to address the current issue before the situation becomes an apparent health hazard to everyone,” Bautista urged.

Parents’ support

Due to the alarming number of pupils who are complaining about the stench, XUGS principal Emmanuel Gomez has asked for the support of their parents “to rally for cleaner air for the children while they are in school.”

The XUGS Pueblo Clinic has reported cases of cough and headaches among the children affected by the foul smell.

“The stench from the nearby Zayas Landfill is smelled mostly in the afternoon depending on the wind direction,” Gomez said, adding that “Although this has been observed in the past, the recent occurrences have become more regular and more intense.”

The stench is being carried by the breeze all across uptown CDO, affecting schools, housing communities and other establishments.

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The city’s overdue dumpsite, covering 17 hectares of land, was designed to hold 1.8 million cubic meters of garbage, but as the number of households increased over the years, the dumpsite now holds twice that amount—at least 4 million cubic meters, a 2015 report said.

Gomez expressed his concern for the children’s health during a meeting with Moreno and representatives from the City Solid Waste Management Board (CSWMB), City Local Environment and Natural Resources Office (Clenro), IPM Construction & Development Corporation (IPMCDC) and Pueblo Township on February 4 at the city mayor’s office.

“We have asked the parents of our pupils and those who are residents of nearby subdivisions—who also experience the same— to join the XUGS community and help look for better solutions to the problem with the support of our local government officials and agencies.”

Residents of Camella, Morning Mist Village and Golden Glow have already expressed their support for the signature campaign. They hope that the initiative will help elevate the problem to the attention of the City Council and appropriate government agencies.

Temporary answer

Besides the sanitations risks and cultural stigma, the rehabilitation and closure project of the present CDO dumpsite in Upper Dagong, Zayas in Barangay Carmen has been facing some problems that are political in nature.

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Lawyer Beda Joy B. Elot, CSWMB vice chairman, said that the landfill closure project is now in its second phase, consisting of the filling of soil, piping, road network construction and social engineering.

She added during the meeting that they started the program of work for Phase 2 despite the absence of funds since the City Council disapproved the budget allotted for the project.

As a temporary solution, Moreno has asked IPMCDC, the private contractor for the landfill rehabilitation and closure project, to regularly deodorize the Zayas dumpsite while the appropriation of funds is “being deliberated on and subjected for approval by the City Council.”

Moreno also recommended for the XU-Pueblo administrators and the management of Pueblo Township to raise this issue to the City Council directly, in the hopes that they will listen to the narratives of children, parents and Pueblo residents.

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Looking toward a long-term solution, the city government is currently studying the environmental and social impact of the new landfill site located at Sitio Pamalihi in Brgy Pagatpat.

photos by CDO Info Network

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