Bulacan mayor defying ARTA?

September 15, 2019
Alfred DG Germar

THE province of Bulacan continues to battle with a “garbage crisis” over the alleged continued refusal of Norzagaray Mayor Alfred DG Germar to issue a business permit and immediately moving to close the lone accredited sanitary landfill facility located in his municipality.

Documents provided to the media disclosed that last August 15, 2019, the Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA), through deputy director general Atty. Ernesto V. Perez and director general Atty. Jeremiah B. Belgica, gave Germar three days to explain his refusal to issue the business permit to Waste Custodian Management, Inc. (Wacuman), “despite compliance with all the requirements.”

ARTA is a new office created under Republic Act (RA) 11032 to monitor compliance with the Duterte administration’s “Ease of Doing Business” policy while also combating instances of corruption down to the local level.

For its part, Wacuman was given presidential authority to service the garbage needs not only of Bulacan but nearby areas as well through Presidential Proclamation 1655 signed in 2008 by then Pres. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

Informed sources claimed Germar’s motive is “purely politics” and “political vendetta” since Matilde Legaspi, mother of Wacuman president Arthur Legasp, ran against him during the May 13 midterm elections.

Germar allegedly ordered the closure of the landfill located in Sitio Tiakad, Bgy. San Mateo, just before the May 13 elections. The mayor allegedly refused to reconsider his position of not giving a business permit to Wacuman, despite the request of outgoing governor Willy Sy-Alvarado right after the elections to prevent a garbage crisis in the province.

In refusing to give a business permit to Wacuman, Germar cited the former’s alleged “insufficient and (lack) of requirements” in the processing of its business permit, according to the report reaching ARTA and the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC).

ARTA has reminded Germar that the continued closure of Wacuman’s facility “will inevitably result in a garbage crisis not only in your city but in the neighboring cities and municipalities of the province of Bulacan as well.”

Documents submitted to ARTA and the PACC showed that Wacuman had complied with all requirements, including a clearance from the regional office of the Environmental Management Bureau, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (EMB-DENR) for the last three years.

DENR spokesman and undersecretary for solid waste management Benny Antiporda said that while his office flagged Wacuman last October 2018 due to some complaints they received against the facility’s operations, these have all been addressed by the company that resulted in its being issued a clearance by the EMB last March 19.

He also described as “erroneous” a news report last week claiming the DENR recently issued an “NOV” (notice of violation) against the company, thus creating the impression that Germar was justified in denying a business permit to the company.

“The DENR’s main concern is compliance by everyone with our environmental laws.  If the requirements have been complied with as in this case, a permit is given. If not, a warning or a sanction, as the case may be, is given,” Antiporda explained.

“People should not involve the department in political issues or political intrigues,” he added.

ARTA had also warned Germar that if the allegation against him is proven, he could be suspended for at least 6 months for the first offence or face imprisonment of up to 6 years plus a P2 million penalty for a subsequent offence.

Since then however, sources said that Germar is yet to answer ARTA’s demand for an explanation why Wacuman’s facility remains close as of this writing.