Improper dumping of human waste triggers filing of mandamus petition

January 28, 2019

CURIOSITY about  where a well-known siphoning services company was dumping the human waste they siphoned from the septic tanks of households in Metro Manila led to the filing before the Supreme Court of a petition for mandamus seeking  the clean-up and rehabilitation of Manila Bay 20 years ago.

In an interview  the petitioner, multi-awarded environmental lawyer and activist Attorney Antonio Oposa, Jr. said his curiosity decided him to require his students from the Ateneo de Manila University to find out as part of their final requirement, where this siphoning company was dumping the human waste they siphoned. He requested not to mention the name of the company.

"I told my students, hanapin niyo kung saan tinatapon ng company na ito yung sewage na sinisipsip nila sa poso negro. As their final exam, sinundan nila nang sinundan yung trak, nakita nila tumigil, alas dos ng madaling araw, sa Greenhills, tapos binaba yung hose, ayun tinapon ang dumi, noong 1991 yun," Oposa disclosed.

Because of what he and his students discovered, Oposa made some research on what case can be filed against concerned agencies that would make them liable for degradation of the environment particularly the Manila Bay. He found a law, Presidential Decree 1152 or the Philippine Environment Code, which was signed into law by former strongman President Ferdinand Marcos.

Under Section 17 and 18 of PD1152, Oposa said, that if the body of water is polluted, it is the duty of government agency concerned to clean it up.

"Walang nakakaalam ng batas na iyun, kaya nung nag-hearing kami, yung nga abogadong katunggali ko, nagkatawanan lang kami. Dalawa lang kami nakakaalam ng batas na iyan, si Marcos ang sumulat niyan," Oposa said in jest.

Oposa was among those who joined the launching of the "Battle for Manila Bay".

Armed with a law that concerns environment, Oposa filed the petition for Mandamus before the High Tribunal on Jan. 29, 1999, exactly 20 years today, against 13 government agencies including the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

In 2008 or after nine years of hearing on the case, the SC issued a mandamus directing the DENR and 12 other government agencies to clean up, rehabilitate and preserve Manila Bay and to restore and maintain its water quality to a level fit for swimming and other contact recreation.

"You imagine after 10 years, sana sana nag-improve man lang, then another 10 years after 2008, halos mahulog ako sa upuan ko nang malaman ko na coliform level sa bay ay umabot na ng 330-million (MPN)," Oposa stressed.

"For 10 years, they failed to comply. Meron nga dapat na sanctions, but then ordinaryong tao lang ako. Yung panahon ni PNoy (former President Noynoy Aquino), walang nangyari noon. To be fair with Secretary Singson (DPWH), siya lang ang may ginawa noon, konti pero hindi yung massive. Yung DENR naman, mawalang-galang sa ating mga kaibigan sa DENR, pati sila nawalan na ng gana," Oposa added.

"It's never too late even if the mandamus was finally implemented after 10 years, never too late because, the sea is still there," Oposa added.