I’m hoping the answer to the question above is ‘yes’!

Earlier this month, we received an urgent message from Ron Gutierrez, our partner in the Philippines with the organization Upholding Life and Nature (ULAN).  Ron informed us about a municipality near Manila, called Obando, which had approved construction of a waste landfill in a low-lying coastal area that is extensively covered with mangroves. This  is a particularly poor choice of  location for a landfill; the month before, the entire area was inundated with flood waters.  The waste from Metro Manila would arrive to Obando on barges.

You can find out more about the proposed project and community efforts to stop it in this article from Dateline Philippines.

Ordinarily, Philippine law requires an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), with full opportunity for public comment, before the government approves a landfill.  However, the proponent of the Obando landfill, a company called EcoShield Development Corporation, only submitted an Initial Environmental Examination Report (IEE).  Nonetheless, the regional office of the Environmental Management Bureau approved the project, issuing an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) for the project.   I urged Ron to send me the documents so that I could see whether they examined the loss of mangroves and the risk of flooding.

Amazingly, the documents Ron sent me made no mention of mangroves, and presented an incredulous plan to build embankments around the landfill to prevent future flooding.  Wanting to help Ron document the existence of mangroves, I took a close look at the location using Google Earth.

What I found was evidence of an extensive canopy of mangroves that would be cleared if the landfill were constructed:

Google Earth Image of the Proposed Obando Landfill Site

The yellow line indicates the boundaries for the proposed landfill. You can see a wide belt of mangroves adjoining Manila Bay on the bottom of the image.  The town of Obando is on the left, above the proposed landfill.

There is hope these mangroves will be protected!  Last year, the Supreme Court of the Philippines adopted new rules (Rules of Procedure for Environmental Cases) that put environmental cases on a fast-track and, in urgent situations, allow citizens to bring a special kind of petition (called a Writ of Kalikasan) directly to the Supreme Court of the Philippines.

This is exactly what our partner in the Philippines did this past Monday (October 24th), filing a Writ of Kalikasan in the Supreme Court.

Along with his petition, Ron submitted a detailed statement I prepared showing why the proposed landfill violates numerous provisions of the Philippines Ecological Solid Waste Management Act. He also included the Google Earth image showing the mangroves that would be lost if the project goes forward.

Under the Rules of Procedure for Environmental Cases, the Supreme Court can quickly grant a Temporary Environmental Protection Order halting activities that can harm the environment.  Ron has requested this relief, and we will soon know whether the bulldozers will be sent away while the Supreme Court hears the case and, hopefully, agrees that this is no place to dispose of Manila’s garbage.

Mark Chernaik
Staff Scientist