COA: Deficient hospital waste hauling put Bulakeños health at risk amid COVID-19 threat

Published June 10, 2021, 8:49 PM

by Ben Rosario

Public health was put to grave risk in Bulacan at the height of the 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic last year when a garbage hauling contractor allegedly violated its contractual obligation and collected hazardous waste from six district hospitals once every two weeks, instead of once per week.

The Commission on Audit urged the provincial government to conduct an investigation in allegations that contractor Cleanway Environment Solution Inc. (CESI) and the Servo Treat Philippines Inc. for violating their respective garbage hauling contracts.

COA said the CESI had also stopped collecting the hazardous waste of the San Miguel District Hospital from May to December 2020.

In its 2020 annual audit report for Bulacan, COA also accused STPI, the province’s general waste hauling contractor of reducing its hauling rounds from once every week to once every two weeks without authority from the provincial government.

State auditors said CESI, the hazardous waste collector, violated Article 4 of its contract with the provincial government that provides for “continuous, uninterrupted hazardous wastes collection” in 2020.

However, during the exit conference on the audit report, the provincial government sanitary office cleared the CESI and pointed to the SMDH as the culprit that caused the non-collection of hospital waste.

The SMDH has reportedly failed to secure an environmental permit from the Department of Environmental and Natural Resources, thus, giving CESI reason to refuse collecting hazardous waste that already piled up at SMDH.

“However, interview with the SMDH personnel concerned claimed that the environmental permit of the SMDH had only expired in October, 2020,” the audit examiners note.

“Therefore, while the environmental permit of SMDH was still in effect from May to September 2020, the CESI had already stopped from collecting hazardous/health care wastes at SMDH,” auditors added.

COA said: “The irregular and interrupted collection of hazardous/healthcare wastes from the DH’s poses the risk of possible waste contamination.” Other contractual violations cited by COA were alleged inappropriate transport of hazardous/healthcare wastes and mixing up the hazardous garbage with general wastes.

CESI has been tasked to collect hospital wastes from six district hospitals run by the provincial government.

Both the STPI and CESI were accused of deviating from their contractual responsibility and asked to explain why they revised the collection schedule from once each week to once every fortnight.