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Rough Cuts: Make the site a relocation area instead

In the Davao Region, a combined group of upland residents mostly indigenous people (IPs) and traditional farmers, former communist rebels, supported by peace advocates, has called on the government for protection from atrocities allegedly perpetrated by New People’s Army (NPA) rebels.In the Negros Provinces farmers tagged by the police and military as either supporters or arms carrying members of the NPA have their own “go-to” agency for protection from “atrocities” reportedly carried out by government law enforcement authorities. Their refuge? The government’s Commission on Human Rights (CHR). And the comportment of the CHR seems to indicate that it is supportive of those who claimed their rights are trampled upon by government agents.

And knowing the capability of the anti-government groups in engaging in propaganda to attain their objectives we should not be surprised if the government will be fighting two war fronts. One against the Communist rebels, and the other against one of its own agency — the CHR.

Of course we know that the creation of the CHR and by enshrining the agency in the 1987 Constitution is a response to the abuses of government agents during the martial law regime. And the intention is a noble one.

Unfortunately, there are people and organizations who want their own ideological and selfish personal interest perpetuated. And they make use of the CHR mandate as sanctuary for them to go to when the need arises. And the CHR appears to be vulnerable to the theatrics of some people.

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Vice Mayor Bernard Al-ag disclosed late last week to participants of the Mindanao Business Forum that the P2.5 billion waste-to-energy (WTE) project of the national government will be implemented starting the third quarter of this year. The beneficiary of course is Davao City. The LGU signed a Memorandum of Agreement with the Department of Finance for the official sourcing of funds from the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) which will provide a grant corresponding to the projected cost of the plant construction.

The WTE project  is expected to address two looming problems of Davao City. One is the fast depletion of space in the city’s existing sanitary landfill in New Carmen due to the volume of waste collected in the whole of Davao City and disposed of in that facility. Another looming problem of the city that can be addressed by the WTE is the growing demand for energy due to the area’s fast developing economy triggered by industrialization and growth in property development.

According to earlier projections by the proponents of the WTE, the power that can be generated by the plant using the city’s garbage would reach to about 2 megawatt once in full operation. That would mean a significant addition to the grid for the city’s own energy use.

But the WTE project which is to be constructed on a 10-hectare property acquired by the city in Biao Escuela  in Tugbok District is opposed by environmentalist groups specifically the No Burn Philippines, a coalition of environmental advocates.

The project, according to the coalition, is more environmentally destructive because to produce energy from waste it has to burn the city’s garbage which are now hugely composed of plastics that give rise to highly toxic pollutants in the air.

The No Burn Philippines further claims that the WTE is the most expensive way to produce energy. It is reportedly costlier by ten (10) times than producing power through coal-fired plants, and 4 times costlier than nuclear.

In fact the Interface Development Interventions (IDIS), a locally-based NGO working for the betterment of the city’s environment, also claims that the pursuance of the WTE project in Biao Escuela is “worrisome.” It is calling the city government to conduct more consultations with different stakeholders before proceeding with the project.

IDIS is of the opinion that with the WTE plant, establishments and  people in the city would do away with disciplining themselves in managing their waste. The NGO says that since there is huge need for waste to be converted into energy it would be okay for the industries, businesses and residents to just produce and dispose of garbage at any volume they want.

Well, we are one with the environmentalist group’s apprehension. we should not be lured into implementing projects that could end up becoming an even bigger problem for the Davaoenos in the future.

After all, one or two megawatt additional power in the grid from the WTE can easily be delivered by existing and expanding capacities of power producers for Davao City and the whole of Mindanao. In fact as of today, the power reserve for the entire island grid is getting even bigger, the El Nino notwithstanding.

If it is technically feasible why not expand the sanitary landfill in New Carmen? And why not convert the Biao property into a relocation site for people affected by the demolitions due to development of urban sites like the construction of the coastal road?  Biao Escuela, anyway, is roughly 25 kilometers away from downtown Davao City using the Catalunan Grande-Tacunan- Matina Biao Road that is now all concrete.

May be this idea is worth exploring by the city’s planners.

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