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Burning questions on last Monday’s fire

THE smoke and other contaminants from last Monday’s (Aug. 12) “destructive fire” that reportedly consumed the controversial waste at Sitio Buguac in barangay (village) Sta. Cruz in Tagoloan town, Misamis Oriental will no doubt cause some serious health problems to residents there.

The incident was posted in the Facebook page of Rep. Juliette Uy of Misamis Oriental’s 2nd district.  The congresswoman, a known critic of those who were responsible for allowing the entry of said waste from South Korea, wasted no time in calling for the prosecution of those who caused the fire which she described as arson.
To recall, said South Korean garbage was shipped to Verde Soko, a company within the Phividec Industrial Estate.  VNS Verde Soko was supposed to use the garbage in its production and reportedly passed through the legal process and procedures of Phividec and the Bureau of Customs. Uy raised the case to Congress, causing the South Korean government to assure that the garbage will be cared for. So, the trash was waiting for shipment at the compound at Sitio Buguac Barangay in Sta. Cruz, Tagoloan when the fire broke out.
What happened? Did somebody did it on purpose and if so, on whose marching orders?  Or did the waste simply ignited by itself and burned down? A report from Mindanao Gold Star Daily quoted Tagoloan Fire Station chief Insp. Randy Obsioma as telling that methane gas stored in the remaining portion of the 5,000 metric tons of garbage ignited due to the heat, causing it to burn down on its own.
These are just a few of the ‘burning’ (pun intended) questions that should be resolved by authorities.  I remember in Criminal Law that the crime of arson as defined included malice and willful, intentional destruction of someone’s property by torching or burning it.
Yes there was burning as shown in the photos I saw at Facebook as posted by Rose Mondejar.  And these photos even made their way to the Lumad Tagoloanon Group Facebook page. As to element number two, the garbage belonged to South Korea and endorsed to Verde Soko.  Was the burning of the garbage intentional and if so, there was malice on the part of perpetrators who disregarded how the smoke and pollutants emanating from the burning garbage would harm the nearby communities all for the sake of disposing it.
The burning of the South Korean garbage is quite deplorable since it may not only cause strained relations between the Philippines and South Korea but it pointed to the absence of vigilance, nay even criminal negligence on the part of those tasked to ensure that the garbage is shipped out of the country immediately.
While all this is going on, may we hear from the Tagoloan municipal government what it plans to do to address the likely harm caused by the burning of the garbage on their constituents’ health.  As to whether the people directly responsible for this will ever be prosecuted, good luck.
By virtue of its vast authority, Phividec could have handled this and told Verde Soko to secure the waste.  I don’t blame Congresswoman Uy for voicing outrage over the incident which may cause long term health impact on the Sta. Cruz community. I support her call for a congressional investigation and to bring those responsible to court.
The South Korean garbage case also showed to light just how helpless the local governments are in demanding accountability from the parties concerned over the way it was handled.  As it is, local residents who will be harmed by the pollutants cannot afford to ask for help, let alone compensation from those who failed to expedite the shipment of the garbage back to its source in South Korea.
To be blunt about it, heads will have to roll over this incident but those responsible are either too far away or clothed with legal immunity to be prosecuted let alone be held accountable for it.

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