Ecological Solid Waste Management in Suburban Municipalities: User Fees in Tuba, Philippines

Article excerpt

I. Introduction

Improper solid waste disposal is probably the most important environmental concern facing local governments (Laplante 2003). This is particularly true in the Philippines (World Bank 2001). in response to a garbage crisis, the first bill that Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed into law in 2001 was Republic Act No. 9003 (RA 9003) or the Ecological Solid Waste Management (ECOSWAM) Act which requires municipalities to dispose of waste in a sanitary and environmentally friendly manner.

The Act created the National Solid Waste Management (SWM) Commission and prescribed the establishment of an SWM board in each local government unit (LGU), (i.e., province, municipality, city and barangay (1)) and the formulation of ten-year local ECOSWAM plans. The Act states that the LGUs shall be primarily responsible for the implementation of ECOSWAM services. It authorizes the local SWM Board to impose fees on the SWM services that the LGU or any authorized organization provides and pool these fees into a solid waste management fund.

The Act has set very ambitious goals, and their achievement will be a challenge for all sectors of the society. The Act requires all LGUs to use sanitary landfills (SLF). As of 2003, there were 726 open dumpsites, 215 controlled dumps and only two sanitary landfills. There are about 220 proposed sanitary landfills to be established nationwide. The cost of SLF construction averages 7 million PhP (Philippine peso) per ha. Annual maintenance and operating costs also constitute a recurring expense. Many LGUs cannot afford these. A back-of-the-envelope analysis indicates that the Philippines will need to spend an additional 150 billion PhP (US$3 billion) for the next ten years for SWM or an additional per capita cost of 200 PhP per year. The average annual costs of implementing the law amount to 0.5 per cent of the year 2000 gross domestic product (GDP) (DBM, National Income Accounts 2001). If this were to be funded solely by the government, it would require the programmed public expenditure in the national budget to increase annually by 3 per cent from its current level and the local government programmed expenditure to increase by at least 15 per cent (World Bank 2001).

This article explores some practical aspects of implementing ECOSWAM in one municipality: the town of Tuba. Tuba is especially sensitive to the cost of ECOSWAM because the municipal government is heavily dependent on its internal revenue allotment (IRA) from the national government. Its IRA comprises about 82 per cent of its income. Its annual budget is only about 40 million PhP (US$752,587). (2) Of this amount, 20 per cent or 8 million PhP (US$148,148) is termed the development fund. The budget for ECOSWAM will have to be taken from this fund. The Tuba municipal government believes that it does not have enough money to provide ECOSWAM services, so it plans to charge "garbage fees" or "user charges". However, Tuba does not know at what level to set garbage tees or how to collect them. This study was undertaken to assist Tuba in designing these fees and hence, provide a sound basis for the formulation of Tuba's ECOSWAM policies.

II. The Site

Tuba is approximately 7 kilometres west of Baguio City and 238 kilometres north of Manila. It is the radiation area of the developmental and spillover activities of Baguio City in terms of education, commerce, industry, housing, tourism and solid wastes. It has 13 barangays with a total population of 39,525 or 7,391 households. Many of Tuba's barangays are non-contiguous, i.e., one has to pass through Baguio City in order to go to the other barangays of Tuba. Twelve high-density housing subdivisions are under construction in Tuba. Its major economic activities are agriculture, livestock production, tourism, mining and cottage industries.

Tuba does not yet have a municipal-wide solid waste collection and disposal system. …