A municipal trial court has ordered the Quezon City government to pay PHP6 million (US$118,323) to the families of hundreds of people who died in a garbage avalanche that occurred in 2000 at the Payatas dumpsite.

In a 133-page decision, the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 97 to pay each of the 56 heirs of the victims PHP50,000 (US$986) in temperate damages, PHP50,000 in moral damages, and PHP10,000 (US$197) in exemplary or corrective damages, GMA News reports. The court also ordered the Quezon City government to pay PHP100,000 (US$1,968) in legal fees to the plaintiffs.

The court decision was dated Oct. 30, 2019, but was only released to the media today.

The same court cleared Tofemi Realty Corporation, Meteor Company Inc., Ren Transport, and the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) of negligence. Tofemi and Meteor owned the land on which the dumpsite was located, which they leased to the Quezon City government. Ren Transport, one of the many haulers that brought garbage daily to the area, was not the only one present at the dumpsite. The MMDA was exonerated because it did not manage the dumpsite.

In July 2000, a garbage avalanche at the dumpsite buried at least 232 people alive. The dumpsite, which closed in 1998 but reopened shortly after, was located near a community called Lupang Pangako, whose residents were sleeping when they were buried underneath the garbage.

Judge Marilou Runes-Tamang , “The mountain-like trash in itself is a testament of the city government’s gross negligence in the management and operation of the dumpsite.”

“The improper and irresponsible dumping of waste thereby creating a mountain-like pile of garbage is the proximate cause of the violent death of the victims and loss of personal and real properties,” she added.

“An examination of the records supports the conclusion that while the plaintiffs did not evacuate and seek for higher and safer place at the onset of the raging typhoons, the negligence of the City Government of Quezon City in failing to maintain an adequate and suitable facility for solid waste disposal, as well as in allowing the heaps of garbage to rise to such immense height, was the proximate cause of the loss of lives and properties,” she said.

Meanwhile, lawyers for the plaintiffs from the Public Interest Law Center lauded the judgment in a statement.

“The decision, if read meticulously and with laws such as the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act deeply associated with this tragedy, helps shape a template for local governments in averting and managing disasters,” they said.

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