Group: Discipline, not WTE plant, solution to garbage problem

·4 min read

ENVIRONMENTAL advocate groups recommend to the Cebu City Government to address the problem of garbage at the household level rather than construct a waste-to-energy (WTE) facility in the city.

Joselito Vasquez, the Visayas and Mindanao coordinator of Piglas Pilipinas and Philippine Movement for Climate Justice, told SunStar Cebu Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022, that WTE facilities have a negative impact not only on the environment but also on the public’s health.

On Thursday, Mayor Michael Rama signed the notice of award to New Sky Energy Philippines Inc. for the construction of a P4.8 billion WTE facility that will burn garbage to generate electricity.

Vasquez said a study conducted by Dr. Jorge Emmanuel of Silliman University revealed that incineration facilities like the WTE can cause health problems like cancer.

He added that the study was presented to the Cebu City Government during the waste summit conducted last April, but the findings were just ignored.

Vasquez said they have been urging the city government to strictly implement Republic Act 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000.

“If we strictly apply the law and capacitate the barangays... ang waste unta nga mogawas sa barangay kato na lang mga (the only waste that would come out of the barangays would be) residual waste,” said Vasquez.

Residual waste refers to the non-recyclable and non-compostable wastes.

Vasquez further said the city government should require all barangays to have their own material recovery facility to help reduce waste that is thrown in the dumpsite.

He also criticized the capability of the WTE facility to produce sufficient electricity due to the moisture content of the garbage.

“There are lots of issues to pursue on this project. Even the energy generated would hardly be sufficient and expensive, because our solid waste has a higher moisture content compared to the ‘dry’ solid waste in other countries that incinerate waste,” said Vasquez.

Cebu City Councilor Joel Garganera, chairman of the committee on environment, said Thursday the facility would be capable of providing electricity to 40,000 households.

40 years

Meanwhile, the EcoWaste Coalition also expressed its dismay at the signing of the contract for the WTE facility.

EcoWaste Coalition national coordinator Aileen Lucero said in a statement that the deal undermines the efforts of the residents of Cebu City to minimize and reduce their waste.

“Mayor Rama’s approval and signing of a 40-year agreement with a garbage incinerator company undermine citizens’ efforts to minimize and reduce their waste while locking in the city to a very long tenure of a dirty and expensive waste management system,” said Lucero.

Paeng Lopez, program manager of the Health Care Without Harm, also said the incinerators disguised as WTE facilities emit toxic pollutants such as dioxin, lead and mercury into the environment.

“The health of families who will find themselves living near the proposed incinerator facility will be sacrificed, particularly children, the elderly, and other vulnerable members of the community,” said Lopez.

“The EcoWaste Coalition and various organizations are preparing to contest the legality of the JVA due to the lack of public consultation and its rushed approval of the city government, in addition to the various public health, environmental risks and climate impacts of the project,” read a portion of EcoWaste’s statement.

Nearly P5 billion

The private firm, New Sky Energy Philippines Inc., will invest P4.8 billion in the construction of a facility that can accommodate 800 tons of garbage per day and use it to generate electricity.

Under the agreement, the City will pay the company a tipping fee of P1,000 per ton of waste in the first three years of operation; P1,150 per ton from the fourth to the sixth year, and P1,300 per ton from the seventh to the ninth year.

In return, the City will be able to receive up to P24 million annually as a share of the electricity that will be generated by the facility.

On Thursday, Razilee Ligaray, the in-house legal counsel of New Sky Energy, said their facility will be compliant with all environmental laws in the country and has passed the standards of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).

Ligaray said the DOST had inspected a plant of New Sky Energy in China and found that the technology used by the company is compliant with the limits and standards set by Philippine laws.

Lawyer Collin Rosell, secretary to Mayor Michael Rama, said the WTE facility is the solution to the open dumpsite method being used by the city, which is a violation of Philippine laws.