THE Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said Tuesday that its regional offices have been ordered to shut down all open dumpsites by March.

“Our EMB (Environment Management Bureau) regional director(s) will continuously undertake closure of open dumpsites within their respective areas… And this is my directive to them and my directive to you, Benny (D. Antiporda). All open dumpsites must be closed by the end of March this year,” DENR Secretary Roy A. Cimatu said during the anniversary of the signing of the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000 or Republic Act (RA) No. 9003.

Mr. Antiporda is the DENR undersecretary in charge of solid waste management and local government unit concerns. He is also the alternate chairman of the National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC).

According to RA 9003, open dumpsites are defined as those where solid waste is deposited without planning and consideration for environmental and health standards, and are illegal to establish or operate.

Mr. Cimatu said his office received a report last night that the DENR shut down 38 open dumpsites in one region in a single day. He did not identify the region.

The NSWMC has so far shuttered 152 open dumpsites, most recently in Tanza, Cavite. The estimate for the number of open dumpsites still operating is 233 as of the end of 2020, down nearly 40% from the total operating in 2017.

On its website, the DENR said dumpsite closures form part of its solid waste management program, the other key component being the creation of material recovery facilities.

Mr. Antiporda told reporters that he is confident that the DENR will meet the March target for closures.

“If there’s a will, there’s a way… If we’re really serious, basically within one month kaya pa po (we can do it),” he said at a briefing.

He added that should he encounter uncooperative officials, he will “deal with them personally.”

On Jan. 15, the DENR sealed the entry points of a six-hectare open dumpsite in Tanza. According to a report from the department’s Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office, the accumulated solid waste at the privately-owned dumpsite was estimated at about three meters high. — Angelica Y. Yang