DAGUPAN CITY – Mayor Belen T. Fernandez is now about to make true  her promise to solve the 50-year old garbage problem of Dagupan  with the establishment soon of  a waste-to- worth facility that could convert garbage into useful diesel fuel when she led in the turnover of core shelter assistance to 30  scavenger families  living within the dumpsite.

“Our Waste-to-Worth Project is now on its evaluation stage. Very soon, this will be built and put into operation to be our long term solution to our 50-year old problem on garbage,” Mayor Fernandez said when she turned over the project located in Sitio Korea, Bonuan Binloc to the beneficiaries, along with Department  of Social  Welfare and Development (DSWD) Regional Director Marcelo Nicomedes J. Castillo.

“The health of the people is our utmost concern and this has been my vision even when I was still a city councilor. I promised myself that if I become the mayor of our beloved city I will try my best to close the dumpsite because  I feel the sentiments of the residents in the area and in the neighboring barangays due to  the foul smell and the smoke coming from the dumpsite,” added Fernandez.

At the same time, she assured that the city will conduct an investigation in a bid to ascertain what or who triggered the suspicious fire at the dumpsite that started simultaneously from three different points, causing heavy smoke in Bonuan Gueset and the neighboring residential areas of Bonuan Binloc and Bonuan Boquig.

Fernandez has been working for the establishment of a waste facility for the city since she started her reign as mayor in 2013, which  she doggedly pursued when she was invited  to Chile, United Nations and APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) summit so that a long-term solution to  the city’s waste problem can be instituted.

Part of the mayor’s long term plan in addressing the city’s waste problem is the relocation of the 30 families living in the dumpsite along with the construction of a Day Care Center and a Health Center in the area.

The 30 scavengers along with their families personally received the key of the shelter awarded to them by the city and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) in Region 1 under the Bottom-Up-Budgeting(BUB).

Each core shelter costs P156,000 from the P2.1 million released by the DSWD with the city providing P2.6 million  counterpart.

The core shelter project is  under the city’s “Maayos na Bahay, Maunlad na Buhay” program.

“We are supporting Dagupan City because they are helping people and we are one with that. We are even ready to provide assistance again relative to the city’s plan of providing these families with livelihood,” said Castillo.

“In fact, the mayor has given them more than enough because I noticed that the city also built a day care center and a health center in this area for these families to take advantage of, and now she is providing them employment in the government,” added Castillo.

Fernandez promised to the 30 families that once the waste facility operates, they will be given the first priority to be employed at the facility or they can choose to stay as street sweepers and market janitors of the city government.

On the other hand, Fernandez revealed she is inclined to file  a complaint against the vendor of the Awai property in San Jacinto which was bought by the city government purportedly for a sanitary landfill of Dagupan at P16 million. This did not materialize as that property was under the coverage of the Comprehensive Land Reform Program, and later reportedly awarded by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to the tenants.

She disclosed that the Commission on Audit (COA) has issued an Audit Memorandum with regards to the Awai property, “which was already paid in full by the administration of then Mayor Benjamin Lim, yet no land title was delivered to the city up to now,” she said.

“I will be consulting our legal officer as the land purchased under the past administration was never turned over to the city

Corollary to this, Fernandez said when she succeeded as mayor she noted  that the dump trucks  purchased  by  the past administration purported to be  brand new were under  repair while the Material Recovery Facilities (MRF) that they built  were not being used as these were not suitable for the purpose.

At the same time, she also said  the past city administration made it appear they were solving the garbage problem when in fact  they were actually bringing wastes somewhere on a land of one businessman in San Jacinto as well as built mini-dumpsites in Tambac, Binloc and Boquig, all  in violation of Republic Act 9003. Records showed the former city administration spent P5 million for this.

“There were also reports they allowed garbage from other towns to be deposited to the dumpsites for which they collected fees from trucks unloading their cargo. When we took over, we stopped this,” said Fernandez. (Joseph C. Bacani/CIO/Jan. 18, 2017)