FEATURE : Waging war against waste

According to the report of the Surigao City General Services Office released in 2000, the City of Surigao generates 18 tons of waste every single day. This being quite a massive amount of waste, the Province of Surigao del Norte has come up with a resounding response to this challenge.

The response came in the form of the ACES Program or the Advocacy for a Clean Environment and its Sustainability. This is a holistic environmental advocacy that focuses not only on lobbying for the passage of environmental laws, but also making sure that these laws are properly implemented. One of the specific programs under the ACES Program is the “Oplan Limpyo Kapitolyo, Kwarta sa Basura, Tabang sa Preso”.

Helping the inmates and cleaning the province

This unique program, which is first in the country, showcases the symbiotic relationship among the Provincial Government of Surigao del Norte through the Provincial Environment Management Office (PEMO), the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), a mining firm – Oriental Synergy Mining Corporation (OSMC) and the inmates of the Provincial Jail of Surigao del Norte through their association SELDA or Surigao Ecological Livelihood Development Association. The scheme not only reduces waste, it also provides a means of livelihood for inmates of the said penal institution.

The Oplan Limpyo Kapitolyo, Kwarta sa Basura, Tabang sa Preso has two component projects: a) organic fertilizer production using bioreactor technology; and b) proper management and recycling of other wastes.

Carrying out plans into action

To carry out the vision for this project, the Provincial Government through the PEMO constructed a Materials Recovery Facility at the Provincial Jail Compound and through the assistance of OSMC, purchased a 300-kg capacity bioreactor which was installed therein. It is also the PEMO that supervises the daily operations of this project.

On the other hand, DOST-13 provided the technology and technical assistance in order to operationalize the facility. Expert from DOST- Industrial Technology Development Institute, in Manila, the generator of the Bioreactor technology in the person of Engr Romeo Cabacang was tapped by DOST 13 to ensure the smooth transfer of technology and sustainable operation of the facility.

The Provincial Jail inmates, as the manpower for this project, apply the technological knowledge acquired from DOST in order to convert biodegradable waste into organic fertilizer, which is the final product of the project. Also, inmates will be trained in coming up with other recycled products. Proceeds and gains from sold products will benefit the Provincial inmates to augment their capacity to meet their daily basic needs.

Launching a revolutionary project

Support for the project poured in when it was officially launched last October 27, 2008 at the Provincial Jail of Surigao del Norte. The Hon. Robert Ace S. Barbers, governor of the Province of Surigao del Norte and brains of the ACES Program, gave a compelling and inspirational message. Vice Governor Noel P. Catre and other Provincial Officials also dropped in to signify their support. Mr. Antonieto M. Charcos, Officer-in-Charge of the PEMO, who generally supervised the full implementation of this laudable project delivered a comprehensive briefing on what the project is all about and the directions and strategies to sustain its operation.

The Regional Director for DOST-13, Dir. Lyndo Villacorta, likewise expressed his strong support and commitment to the project. The Chief of the Material Science Division, Microbiology Section of the DOST-ITDI, Engr. Romeo Cabacang, likewise expressed commitment to help propel the project into success. The Oriental Synergy Mining Corporation, one of the keen advocates of a healthy and clean environment, also sent its representative in the person of its Manager, Engr. Gerry Higdon.

How is the project now?

This March or five(5) months after its operation, the Bioreactor Facility at the Provincial Jail compound has now produced around 18.750 tons of organic fertilizer. Packed in a 50-kg capacity, and priced at Php 250.00 per sack, it will generate an income of Php 93,750.00. So far, PEMO and SELDA or Surigao Ecological Livelihood Development Association, whose members are the provincial inmates directly manning the facility had already disposed half of the organic fertilizer tonnage fetching an income of about Php 47,500.00. And so far, sales booking starts to pick up.

Today, this innovative project is gaining wide support from every Surigaonon. Somehow, the message printed at the back of the shirts of those involved in the project say it all: “ECO-BOYS”. The notion that more people are being men for a clean and healthy environment is indeed a welcome thought. And more so, it proves that there is money even when one is waging war against garbage. (Dr. Nancy L. Charcos, PSTD - Surigao del Norte/PIA-Surigao del Norte)

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