Home > Environment > Irisan Dumpsite: The Inconsistencies of the Government’s Plans and Actions

Irisan Dumpsite: The Inconsistencies of the Government’s Plans and Actions

by Francis Blaise Acorda, Jon Viktor Cabuenas, Carly Ymer Lemence

Rebecca Martin is a working woman in Purok 17, Irisan, Baguio City. She works as a garbage picker in the new Irisan dumpsite and she has already been working for 15 years. As the old dumpsite is now closed, Rebecca now works in the staging area to continue her work. Unlike others who take trash for granted, she earns her living from trash.

Rebecca, together with other family members, goes to the dumpsite as early as 5 o’clock in the morning every day. With the use of long sticks, they search within the trash for plastics and other biodegradable materials. They segregate everything they can find – bottles, plastics, wrappers, etc. At the end of the day, at around 7 o’clock in the evening, they sell everything they get to the nearest junk shops. They earn around 100 Php per day.

Although the Irisan dumpsite was permanently closed since the trash slide last August 27, 2011, Rebecca and her co-workers still feel glad about having a staging area in Purok 17, Irisan. According to her, this is the only place where they can work and the only place where they can earn money for a living.

Rebecca and her family are not the only ones who live near the Irisan dumpsite but they lucky, having not been affected by the trash slide. According to her, she has friends whose houses were buried in trash but the government helped them and gave them housing in Pacdal, Baguio City.

As a consistent observer in the Irisan dumpsite and the new staging area, Rebecca is aware of the everyday cycle of the garbage in Baguio City.


Rebecca Martin, wearing the blue cap, with her fellow garbage picker.

(Photo taken by Carly Ymer Lemence 03/05/12)


The Garbage Pickers (Photo taken by Carly Ymer Lemence 03/05/12)

 The Irisan Dumpsite then and after the trashslide

The Irisan dumpsite has already been the area for Baguio City’s garbage since 1972. Prior to being a dumpsite, the area used to be owned by the Smith clan, an American family. It was then passed on to a local family from Baguio, the Caguioa family who finally decided to give the land to the city.

Before the implementation of the Republic Act 9003 in the year 2000, the segregation of the biodegradable and non-biodegradable wastes was not strictly implemented, leaving an assortment of both biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste materials in the dumpsite.

After the trash slide that affected families from the residential areas along Irisan and Asin Road, Baguio City, Irisan Barangay Captain Thomas Dumalti says that as far as he knows, the city government of Baguio is liable for 20,000.00 Php for every death incurred in the incident and another 20,000.00 Php for every household affected. As help, the barangay solicited funds and relief goods to the affected families.

Kagawad Philip Tanawe of Barangay Irisan said that the affected families, including those whose houses were buried by trash, were not given relocation homes by the government. Tanawe added that some families resettled to their relatives living along Baguio while others stayed as they had no other place to go. According to Ruben A. Cervantes, Public Services Officer IV of City Environment and Parks Management Office (CEPMO), they are not responsible for giving these families resettlement homes as these families are informal settlers.

Ceferino Nariz, an Irisan resident, said he and his family have been staying in the area since 1982. He said that they have no plans of leaving their home as it is where they earn their living. When it comes to issues and concerns, Nariz said that they do not have any problems, even if they live just beside the dumpsite. His only wish is for the garbage to be permanently removed for the government’s plans of rehabilitating the dumpsite to push through.

Is the dumpsite permanently closed?

The dumpsite was only permanently closed on January 28, 2012 after the Supreme Court released an order for the area to be permanently closed. Although there are rumors that the dumpsite is not really closed, the residents along the dumpsite, the garbage pickers, and Ruben Cervantes of CEPMO denied this. Cervantes added that the old dumpsite is where the recycling machines are located. Biodegradable materials collected from the city are brought there to be grinded and converted into fertilizers.

Today, part of the Irisan dumpsite is now covered by soil and according to Kagawad Tanawe, in time the whole site will be covered with soil, serving as the first step in rehabilitating the dumpsite.

As the dumpsite is now permanently closed, the city government eyes total restoration of the land. By the process of retrofiling, all the trash left in the site will be covered up by soil. Development started last January 28 and as of now, the topmost part of the area is now completely covered.

Since the site is not evenly levelled, parts of the area will be terraced as to avoid landslides. Regreening of the area will also be imposed as the site is set to be made into an eco-park.

Ruben Cervantes of CEPMO denied rumors that the money for the rehabilitation of the dumpsite was given to the victim of Sendong in Mindanao. He said that the financial donation said to have been giving to these victims, is from the contingency funds of the city.


The Irisan Dumpsite. Half of its top part covered with soil. (Photo taken by Kagawad Philip Tanawe of Barangay Irisan)

Kagawad Tanawe said that the dumpsite has minimal possibility of erosion as it is no longer in a slope.

Implementation of R.A.9003 and the New Staging Area

Although the Republic Act 9003 or the Ecological Waste Management Act was implemented as early as the year 2000 during the term of Mayor Braulio Yaranon, people in Baguio City did not practice this. The “No Segregation, No Collection Policy” was only implemented after the Irisan trash slide. Since then, garbage from different houses and barangays are to be segregated. If not, these are not to be collected

Republic Act 9003, otherwise known as the “Philippine Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000,” states that “it is the policy of the State to adopt a systematic, comprehensive and ecological solid waste management.” Residents are to segregate trash between biodegradable and non-biodegradable materials.

As the Irisan dumpsite is now permanently closed, the government opened a new staging area for the city’s garbage. This staging area is located in Purok 17 of Barangay Irisan.

Ruben Cervantes of CEPMO said that the city’s garbage is supposed to be dumped in the staging area for only 24 hours then transported to Tarlac but according to Kagawad Tanawe, the garbage stays in the staging area for about two to three days before being transported. Tanawe also doubts that the recycling machines are being used by the city government because according to him, the machine cannot process all the biodegradables in converting it into compost materials. According to Cervantes, these machines are still being used.

Irisan Barangay Captain Thomas Dumalti said that for the garbage to be transported to Tarlac, it must first be transferred to larger trucks as the smaller trucks are not practical, being unable to transport large volumes of trash. Dumalti also believes that there is another staging area in Barangay Sanitary Camp but Kagawad Tanawe has contradicting information as he said that the Sanitary Camp is already clean and it only served as a staging area way before the Irisan dumpsite. Cervantes confirmed that Sanitary Camp is no longer a staging area and it now serves as a residential area.


(Photo taken by Carly Ymer Lemence 03/06/12) Staging Area in Irisan

Now that the city’s garbage is currently being dumped in the staging area, residents along the site have different opinions and views.

Feliza Uyam, a resident living near the staging area said that she sometimes works in the site. According to her, the staging area is open for everyone who wants to work there as a garbage picker, as there is no contract. She said that most of the people who work there need to earn money to buy food for their families.

Uyam said that both biodegradables and non-biodegradables are thrown in the staging area. Some of the biodegradables are brought to the closed Irisan dumpsite where the recycling machines are located, some given and found by the garbage pickers for them to sell, and the remaining biodegradables are collected by the large trucks to be brought to Tarlac.

With the staging area just a few steps away from her home, Feliza said that she is fine with the staging area being close to her home as it gives her and her neighbours a place to earn money to be able to help their families.

A store owner whose store is also a few steps from the staging area said that according to the government, the site will only be used as a staging area for six months but up until now, the staging area is still operating for even more than six months, allegedly, while some of the residents in the nearby area do not have any idea what the government will do with the area and how it is going to operate.


Residential Area near the Staging Area (Photo taken by Carly Ymer Lemence 03/05/12)

Land used for the staging area: Owned by the BCNHS

The land used for the staging area in Irisan where the garbage is currently being held, was originally owned by the city government but the land was later given to Baguio City National High School. When the news broke that the city government was using the land of BCNHS as a staging area, Dr. Elma D. Donaal, BCNHS Principal IV, immediately called the attention of CEPMO. Donaal learned the news from media who asked her to comment regarding the matter. Although the land had already been given to BCNHS, the government did not inform Donaal about the plan of making the land as a staging area for the city’s trash. Although a bit taken aback on the matter, Donaal agreed to the plan of the government and thought that it was a way to help the city.

The staging area is the proposed site where BCNHS and the Philippine Science High School plan to construct buildings for the expansion of their schools. As funds are not yet available for BCNHS, they have leased less than 50% of the land to the Philippine Science High School which is set to construct their school building as soon as possible. As of now, Principal Donaal agreed with CEPMO for the city to temporarily use their land as a staging area. “I am not complaining because it’s for the good of the city,” she said.

Donaal explained that the city hall is not to be blamed because it is not only the government’s garbage but it is also the garbage of the citizens of Baguio.

The “No Segregation, No Collection Policy” is now being strictly implemented in the city. Every day, 15 garbage trucks collect the trash once a day in the residential areas and thrice a day in the central business district of Baguio.

Rehabilitation of the Dumpsite

If the rehabilitation of the Irisan dumpsite and the planned eco-park pushes through, Barangay captain Dumalti wishes that the government prioritize the residents along the area, giving them jobs, as the government has now plans to make them leave the area.

  1. Carlos Lemence
    March 12, 2012 at 5:00 pm

    Well presented, mentioning many things about the laws concerning dumpsites and the people’s lives depending on it make it more investigative. The photos complement the story making it more clearer and understandable. Congratulations, job well done.

  2. March 12, 2012 at 5:51 pm

    Well, being not from Baguio or anywhere near it, I’m totally clueless about the issuem honestly hehehehe But as a person (Aun eh hehehe), I think I have something to say (¿Qué? jejeje). Ok, I think it’s a shame that many families have lost their source of income when the dumpsite was closed, but on a deeper sense(weh? hehe), we don’t want any more tragic “events” to happen, right? So I think it’s really time for the land, the soil, where the old dumpsite was once situated to take some time breathe again to life ¿no?, to be rehabilitated, and have another purpose, like what is mentioned above, which I personally think is very good (Naku “very good” daw oh? may masabi lang? hehehe). Besides the dumpsite had been already there for quite a long time and the trashslide, I think, is the indication, the signal, of the land saying “¡Basta ya! I’m tired and old y no puedo más. huhuhu…”. Something non compos mentis like that hehehe. Now, about the new staging area, gosh, what can I say? hehehehehehe Well, what else could the local government of Baguio do? Transferring all of those bunches of odds and ends of the entire Baguio to Tarlac in just 24 short hours is really such a throbbing pain in the a*s. Besides, it gives a temporary job to the trash pickers that find it the only way to earn a living. Having said that, I still believe that the local government should still think of better ways of managing those garbages, you know that, do some more comprehensive planning to come up with a more strategical wastes management process ‘coz HEY! (that’s a fiercing B6 note form me hehe), the new staging area is better off as a school campus, remember, 6 months only, hmmmm… What else? Uh, yeah, the relocation of the residents that rely on dumpsites as their source of living! Don’t be too harsh on them, they’re not to blame that history has to runs its course that’s why they ended up as trash pickers (Baka kung ano masabi ko eh yan na lang hehehe). I think the local gov’t should also try to give them some considerations, although the real big picture is really the lightning-should-not-strike-the-same-place-twice thing. Like what I said, we don’t want any more tragedies or such sort of things to happen again. By the way high way, I like that idea of recycling machines for biodegradable wastes to be converted into compost. I just hope that the local gov’t. really dwell in that and find more ways to have it executed even more effectively, properly, with flying colours as planned and as expected. Anyway, I think I have to go, I still have my practice for our play. hehehe If I have my time, I will try to come back here and eventually come up with something better to say than all these nonsense I wrote here which I wonder if any of you could withstand and hold temper about all the cracked-mouthing I did here hehehehe I just hope that nobody here barges me with fiery vocal kicks and punches because of too much annoyance and all hehehehe ¡Graçias! :p

  3. March 12, 2012 at 5:57 pm


    Anyway before I go, I would just to commend those three amazingly wonderful gentes behind this, what do we call this? hehehe Investigative report? Basta! hehehe Yes, nice job and good luck. ¡Feliçidades! 😀

  4. March 12, 2012 at 6:00 pm

    *I would just like to commend…. (Nakulangan p ng type hehehehe lo siento mucho). Last n tlga to for now baka ipapatay na ‘ko sa mga sinsabi ko. Sa susunod naman hehehehe Ciao! 😛

  5. Paul de Leon
    March 12, 2012 at 6:35 pm

    The report was very well presented. It delivered easily understood information, based upon extensive interviewing and presentation of laws concerning the issue. The report also provided a clearer picture of the subject for concerned individuals and touched other important aspects of the topic such as health and economic issues. Lastly, the photos included in the report complemented the story well, making it clear and informative.

  6. Dahrren Dominguez
    March 12, 2012 at 9:30 pm

    I’m not that aware of this issue before. Well, not as detailed as this. So I must say that this report is very informative. It clearly elaborated a lot of fine points regarding the controversial Irisan dumpsite and it was able to give the perspective of the concerned individuals very well. The photos were very helpful, too, for the readers to depict the situation.

  7. Sai Martinez
    March 13, 2012 at 8:43 pm

    A report like this is very important in making the people of Baguio understand the gravity of this alarming issue. It raises a lot of good points and and addresses some concerns that should not be neglected.

  8. March 13, 2012 at 9:11 pm

    It was very informative. Relevant information has been carefully selected and it can be seen that the investigation has been well planned.

  9. Elaine
    March 13, 2012 at 9:14 pm

    Very informative, everyone must read this. A well-written article. 🙂

  10. Shane Garcia
    March 13, 2012 at 9:18 pm

    Somehow this article reminds me of the scenario happening in our nearby barangay. This kind of situation is the one the government should give more focus in giving immediate solutions. This article will serve as a wake-up call to others to be aware that this problem really exists. The photos above serve as enough evidence for us to be alarmed. The writers presented it very well. Kudos to all of you!! 🙂

  11. mark
    March 13, 2012 at 9:33 pm

    what a lovely IR 🙂

  12. :)
    March 13, 2012 at 10:00 pm

    it is very informative as well as it fearlessly presents to the people what is really happening in our society particularly to our environment. nice job guys. 🙂

  13. Euza Panganiban
    March 13, 2012 at 10:15 pm

    The report gives clear and precise information about what really happened to the Irisan Dump Site. It speaks nothing but truth. Kudos to the reporters! 🙂

  14. mark
    March 13, 2012 at 10:15 pm

    hope to see more reports from carly 😀

  15. March 14, 2012 at 10:26 am

    This is an interesting report on the condition of dumpsites in Baguio, particularly the Irisan Dumpsite. However, more than looking at a new staging area, I am concerned with what are the possible effects that the local government should consider. First,while dumpsites provide jobs to families who live nearby, what should the government should consider is the health hazard in engaging with trash. Second, while it may be ideal to set up a dumpsite, in consideration is the protection of the environment. There should be a clear process on how to dispose the trash as not to pollute the environment. Third, the local government should also look on providing jobs to the families but not selling the idea of money on trash. Perhaps a livelihood project could support this goal. Fourth, the development of new stage area should be planned. It should be safe and well-built as to avoid possible erosion or landslide on rainy season. And lastly, with all the laws on environment protection, there should be a study that solicits the feedback of the people on where the dumpsite is located or should be staged. A bottom-up or participative deliberation should be able to address the impacts of having a dumpsite or putting up a new one. With this, the people are aware and they know their relevance and the dumpsite itself on the web of Baguio’s social fabric and green landscape.

  16. Len-Len
    March 14, 2012 at 10:53 am

    KUDOS!!! to our future journalists namely Francis Blaise Acorda, Jon Viktor Cabuenas and especially Carly Ymer Lemence for a very well done IR.

    It’s really sad to hear and see the inconsistencies of plans and actions of the people we’ve elected into power but still praying and looking forward that they could come up with the best solution for Irisan dumpsite. And at the moment, you can’t blame especially the garbage pickers…as they only earn a living by transforming one person’s trash into another’s treasure.

  17. dustin :)
    March 16, 2012 at 2:23 pm

    very informative! and i like that you took the info from different perspectives to show the inconsistencies 🙂 hihihi! but i think it could have been written shorter and some of the details could have been more supported. like the claims of having the land terraced and covered with soil, has this been done before? not to be mean, but from what i read, this info came from the Kagawad, i mean what does he know about the assurance that retrofiling of the site would prevent it from eroding.. that could have been more reliable if it came from the CEPMO?.. just a random thought.. nevertheless, great job! can’t wait to read more from you lovely people!

  18. kana
    March 16, 2012 at 3:22 pm

    Wiggle wiggle wiggle, yeah!

  19. KMA
    April 9, 2012 at 2:07 pm

    Very good article… a correction though – “Although the Republic Act 9003 or the Ecological Waste Management Act was implemented as early as the year 2000 during the term of Mayor Braulio Yaranon.” Mauricio Domogan was on his last year as Mayor in 2000, and Vergara was the Mayor when the law took effect in 2001. 🙂

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