Thursday, April 18, 2024

PCO remains confident amid lone lead

By Kean Andrei Bagaipo and Kristia Niña Daymiel | February 22, 2024

When viewed with a critical eye, Silliman University’s (SU) environmental management—though challenging—remains steadfast amid the limited workforce and vast campus area. 

Anchored on the grounds of 1 Hibbard Ave., Brgy. 5, Dumaguete City, SU covers 310,176 square meters (sqm.) of land area in total and an overall gross floor of 368,420.643 sqm.

With this seemingly expansive area, Engr. Francisco Gutib, SU Pollution Control Officer (PCO) admitted that thoroughly monitoring the entire school’s environmental management has been a challenge since his appointment in 2017. 

Wala man gud mag-monitor. Ako ra usa. Maayo unta naa koy grupo, dili lang ako ra usa,” Engr. Gutib said.

(There aren’t many people monitoring. It’s just me. It’s better if I have company, not just me alone.)   

Despite his solo command, Engr. Gutib said he appreciates the collective efforts of students and offices that pave the way to meeting SU’s environmental goals. 

Pasalamat gani ko sa students kay naay mga advocacies […] mulihok gyud sila, and Office of the Students Services (OSS), ni initiate gyud sila, dayun ang atung Silliman Cafeteria nag initiate pud ug waste management,” he said. 

(I’m grateful to the students because they have advocacies […] they really act on it, and the Office of the Students Services, they really initiated, our Silliman Cafeteria also initiated waste management.)

Role of a PCO 

As a PCO, one must oversee the environmental impacts of an establishment whose activities are potential sources of land, water, or air pollution while ensuring that an institution effectively implements an environmental management system. 

On paper, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources Environmental Management Bureau (DENR-EMB) Revised Guidelines for PCO Accreditation stated that there needs to be “at least” one PCO per institution. 

“For companies with multiple installations (telecommunication companies, transmission substation, distribution substation, water pumping station, sewage/septage treatment facilities, etc.) at different locations or regions, a minimum of one PCO shall be required,” the guidelines stated.

Additionally, appointing “another PCO” is also needed for establishments under highly urbanized cities and those that fall under category B of DENR’s PCO accreditation. 

Category B comprises specific criteria on chemical usage, the quantity of hazardous waste, air emissions, solid waste generated, sludge generated, and wastewater discharged. 

SU belongs to category B, hence the position of Engr. Gutib as PCO.

HRMD on Gutib’s lone post to the office

While SU’s PCO appointment has been exclusive to one, Human Resource Management (HRM) Director Dr. Lourdes Piñero said that the university is in a “unique situation” due to a “very expansive campus.”

“In any company, they are only requir[ing] one. But that’s, of course, depending on the institution [to decide] how they will appoint. Ang atong appointment gyud is isa atong PCO,” Dr. Piñero said.

(In any company, they are only requiring one But that’s, of course, depending on the institution to decide how they will appoint. Our appointment is only one PCO.)

Dr. Piñero further said that Engr. Gutib’s post in the office is the university’s response to DENR’s Administrative Order 2014-02.

Wala siya’y best way forward but ang policy nato: Ang ato is adherence to the law but as an institution. Si PCO is appointed to create or come up with policies for that,” she said. 

(There’s no best way forward, but our policy is an adherence to the law as an institution. The PCO is appointed to create or come up with the policies for that.) 

Engr. Gutib, however, works jointly with SU Buildings and Grounds (BG) to carry out SU’s environmental management system. 

On working with other offices

Despite having one institutional PCO amid a 62-hectare institution, Dr. Piñero said that BG also has its “responsibilities to respond accordingly” in reinforcing the policies.

“The way that we work with here kay si BG man gud ang operations. So si PCO, ang idea ana is [that] siya ang check and balance,” she said.

(The way that we work here is that BG handles the operations. So for PCO, the idea is that he does the checks and balances.)

SU’s university manual states that BG’s function is to “handle and oversee both operations and ground maintenance throughout the campus and its related properties” and to “implement safety and security measures on campus.”

“So for example, muingon si PCO nga kani na area, we need to do this because nakita niya nga diri ang cafeteria, diri ang food, or siya ang muingon na dapat daghang bins diri. And so BG will respond,” she added.

(So for example, PCO will say that in this area, we need to do this because he sees that the cafeteria must be here, the food must be here, or he will say that there should be more bins here. And so BG will respond.)

Considering the size of the campus area, Dr. Piñero also said that “there’s no problem” with PCO and BG working with other departments to fulfill SU’s compliance with its environmental requirements, which has long been intensified since 2018. 

SU environmental commitment

SU’s heightened environmental commitment began when it adopted new environmental policies encompassing five specific policy areas: general policies on waste prevention and waste management including zero waste management, green procurement policies, policies related to food and food waste, waste policies related to events and festivals, and policies related to greening of the campus. 

The university then intensified its initiatives in carrying out policies by joining the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the United Nations, governments, and scientists around the world in raising a climate emergency in November 2022. 

Through this declaration, SU bolstered the importance of zero-waste and plastic ban policies to systematically eliminate the volume of waste and materials inside the campus. 

Engr. Gutib said that, while both policies highlight SU’s environmental efforts, the lack of manpower and its reinforcement make the waste mitigation less progressive than it has been envisioned to be. 

PCO and HRMD’s take on limited manpower 

To better fulfill SU’s environmental goals, Engr. Gutib suggested implementing a zoning-type system for monitoring waste management in which the campus will be subdivided into areas with one monitoring personnel for each zone. 

Bulag-bulag man gud ta [kay] in between nato [are] roads. Dili makaya sa usa ka tawo, so kinahanglan zone 1 (west campus), zone 2 (east campus), zone 3 (IEMS), naay usa [each],” he said.

(We’re separated in between roads. It cannot be done by one person, so it is necessary that in zone 1, zone 2, and zone 3, there is one each.) 

He also said he once brought up to the administration the hiring of a university-based waste collector to ensure a transparent report of its waste account.  

With his sentiments, Engr. Gutib hoped that Dr. Piñero and her office “hear” his concerns and try their “best to see it from that perspective.”

Dr. Piñero responded to Engr. Gutib, stating that “We’re constantly evolving, you say, and learning along the way how we can manage and best put things in order. So that’s really where he’s coming from and I understand where he is because I could also imagine.”

However, Dr. Piñero said that addressing the lack of manpower doesn’t require a “formal appointment” but an “encouragement for our [SU community] response” to follow the basic waste management practices. 

As such, she does not “want to say that it’s a lack of reinforcement” considering the various mitigation responses done by the departments, teaching staff, and students. 

“I think it’s also one of the [values] that we, in Silliman, […] develop as part of the community. Whoever you are, whether you’re a student [or] you’re an employee, because that’s something that is embedded as part of the community,” Dr. Piñero said.

SU environmental policy’s way forward 

Engr. Gutib said he believes that it is through a collaborative effort between the administration and students that the ideals of SU’s environmental policies are met. 

“Okay to [waste watch] na initiative sa students. Magtinabangay lang gud ta,” he said.

(The [waste watch] initiatives of students are good. Let us help one another.)

In terms of the policies’ shortcomings, Engr. Gutib further urged students to call out issues properly to the concerned offices instead of publicizing them online. 

Og naay mga lapses or naay mga pagkulang, dili lang nato i-[bring] up sa social media,” he said. 

(If there are lapses or mishaps, let us not bring them up on social media only.)

Even with what seems to be a challenge due to an imbalance between manpower and the school’s expansive area, it is through a united front and an individual sense of stewardship that will give SU its genuine progress on environmental goals—a point Engr. Gutib consistently emphasized.

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