By Vincent Martinez
A municipal councilor here expressed fears that the local government unit (LGU) of Malay, where Boracay belongs, might go bankrupt if the municipality keeps on paying its private partner, ECOS Sanitary Landfill and Waste Management Corporation, hundreds of millions every year for garbage collection and management.
SB (Sangguniang Bayan) member Lloyd Maming issued the warning at the session of the Sangguniang Bayan of Malay on Thursday even as he questioned the week-long stoppage of the garbage collection by ECOS despite it having been paid more than PhP 100 million by the LGU for last year alone.
“I checked on our records and it appears that the LGU paid ECOS more than PhP 100 million covering the year 2020 and, although we still have a balance of around PhP 7 million, there is no reason for them to renege on their obligation to regularly collect and manage our garbage,” he said, adding, “This simply shows that they are not doing their part.”
“We have to minimize our payment if we want to avoid the risk of insolvency,” he stressed.
Echoing the same concern, Councilor Christine Hope Pagsuguiron assailed the “irresponsibility” of ECOS, going as far as qualifying it as “a violation”.
“Personally, I am aware of the various complaints about the garbage problem so this leaves us asking what benefits have they (ECOS) given the municipality so far,” Pagsuguiron asked.
“Supposedly, with the partnership agreement, we shouldn’t be having problems relative to garbage collection, but ECOS is not doing what (it) is obliged to do. Their service is not acceptable, and we have to take immediate legislative action,” she urged fellow members of the Municipal Council.
The SK representative pointed out that ECOS is violating the provisions of the Public-Private Partnership it entered with the Malay LGU as well as the provisions of the Solid Waste Management Act.
Aside from the irregular collection of garbage, Pagsuguiron lamented the way garbage is collected by ECOS, saying, “The passing garbage truck emits a very strong stench that even a facemask can’t repel, and this is bad for the health of our constituents.”
“In an earlier commitment made by ECOS officials, they promised to purchase enzymes to eliminate the emission of the foul odor, but, sadly, they did not fulfill this,” she said, adding, “Shall we wait for another case to be filed against us before we act on it?”
Pagsuguiron was referring to the graft charges filed against her along with 25 others before the office of the Ombudsman relative to the PPP (Public-Private Partnership) contract.
“KIDNAPPED FOR RANSOM”
In a privilege speech, Councilor Maylynn Graf, chair of the SB Committee on the Environment, likened the LGU to being “kidnapped for ransom” by ECOS.
“Why does it have to be like that? Why does ECOS do that (stoppage of the collection) when we are late in our payment? This is a recurring problem. We are really at their mercy. It’s like we’ve been kidnapped for ransom,” she lamented.
Graf was alluding to the stoppage of garbage collection from December 30, 2020 to January 4, 2021, apparently because the LGU was late in its payment of dues.
“It is high time we review the contract and fix its onerous provisions. Let’s be realistic, examine our accounts and budgets, and start tightening our belts. We can’t keep throwing our money away paying for the collection and management of our garbage and be kept ‘hostage’ by a company that is not exclusively earning from its deal with the LGU. Everyone knows ECOS trucks do not enter Boracay empty; they carry in gravel and sand, and they earn from that as well,” Graf claimed.
WHERE’S THE TECHNOLOGY?
Relatedly, Councilor Junthir Flores, chair of the Ad-hoc Committee tasked to review the legality of the PPP contract between the Malay LGU and ECOS, questioned why, despite the hundreds of millions it has collected from the LGU, ECOS is still using ordinary garbage trucks in its collection process.
“We have been paying so much for the garbage collection and ECOS has not even thought to buy a garbage compactor truck to level up its collection processes? Boracay is the best island in the world, yet ECOS cannot even afford to upgrade its equipment? ECOS boasts of having a new concept and new technology, but where are they?” he asked.
The Public-Private Partnership contract between ECOS and Malay LGU has been the object of various complaints by residents of Malay especially those living on the island of Boracay.
In February last year, Noel Cabobos, an investigative journalist residing in Boracay Island and who heads the anti-corruption advocacy Bawal Ang Korap, filed graft and corruption charges, plunder and violations of laws relative to the environment against former and current officials of Malay pertaining to the passage of the said contract, which he claimed to be “null and void from the very beginning, being peppered with defects and onerous provisions that go against the law and the interests of the government and the people of Malay.”
The case was docketed as case number OMB-V-C-200099 and case OMB-V-A-20-0114.
After finding enough basis to proceed with the criminal and administrative investigation of the cases, the Ombudsman in October last year ordered the respondents,all 26 of them,comprising of former and current officials of Malay, including some heads of offices, along with officials of a private hauling company, to file their counter-affidavits in answer to the complaint.