Smoked out

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The Independent Online
MANILA, (AFP) - President Fidel Ramos on Saturday ordered the closure of "Smokey Mountain," a huge garbage dump in Manila which has become a symbol of Philippine poverty.

Speaking to hundreds of residents, including the scavengers who make a living picking through the refuse for scraps to sell, Ramos said the closure and eventual conversion of Smokey Mountain to a housing estate, would become a symbol, "of the renewal and the rebirth and the rise of our nation."

"Today's scar will be tommorow's star," he said.

The open dumpsite, in a slum area of the city, has been in use for 40 years.

It will be replaced by a sanitary landfill set up in the neighboring Cavite province.

Under an ambitious program, the 21.2 hectare (52 acre) garbage dump will be levelled and a low-cost housing project built on the site and made available to some of the scavengers displaced by the dump's closure.

Part of the garbage will be used in a land reclamation project to be set up nearby. The reclaimed land will form part of a manufacturing and commercial complex with rental income used to subsidize the housing project.

For years, Smokey Mountain-- so named due to the smoke from methane fires at the dump -- has been a symbol of the country's underdevelopment. Scores of foreign correspondents have visited the site to document how thousands of Filipinos are reduced to picking through garbage to survive.