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Environmental group: WTE never the answer

A DAVAO City-based environmental group remains skeptical of the Waste-To-Energy (WTE) facility project the city government is aggressively pursuing.

Councilor Temujin “Tek” Ocampo revealed on Tuesday during Aprubado sa Konseho that an Australian firm was interested in funding the city’s WTE project.

Ocampo attested that the company, along with its European partners, has a great track record in energy generation.

“They are now getting in touch with the Davao City Investment Promotion Center (DCIPC) for the necessary documents to be complied,” Ocampo said.

When asked if the project would push through given the zero support from environmentalists, Ocampo said they are hoping as “new technology is more environment-friendly.”

The councilor added the firm is looking at a 50-megawatt power plant and waste conversion technology that does not require incineration (burning). Instead, the technology breaks down waste into natural gas running the turbine, and the excess waste will either go to the landfills, be used as fertilizers, or be transformed into bricks.

“During the initial talks, sabi nila ilaha na daw tung paningkamutan, walay iinvest ang syudad bisag piso ani, ang ato lang i-provide is yuta,” he said stressing the construction of the project will be fully funded by the firm.

The city government also considers a public-private partnership (PPP) with domestic and foreign companies. Presently, plans are being made to model the WTE after the facility in Poland and Germany.

However, this won’t push through yet as the city has a standing agreement with the Japanese Government on the WTE project, which is currently put on hold by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) “for no reason” as per Ocampo.

To recall, JICA came up with a study in 2015 of the viability of the project in the city and proposed in 2016 to partially fund the establishment. The proposed facility will have a capacity of about 600 metric tons of waste producing 12 megawatts of energy. 

About 650- 800 tons of garbage daily is being collected by the city environment and natural resources office and the sanitary landfill in New Carmen has been maximized to its full capacity.

Band-aid solution

However, Atty. Mark Peñalver, director of Interfacing Development Interventions for Sustainability (IDIS), said on Wednesday that the new approach might seem better than incineration. However, the city’s issues on waste are still not effectively resolved.

Modaghan gihapon atong waste just to fuel, to operate the facility, though we haven’t looked at it, kung ingana gihapon ang technology, band-aid solution gihapon sa kung unsa ang naa ta,” Peñalver told reporters.

He added that any WTE alternative technology still creates emissions once plastic chemicals and waste are exposed to heat,  leading to air pollution.

“WTE is worst, as you cannot see the emissions and we are unaware we inhaled the dioxides and furans released from burning or heating the plastic wastes,” he said.

Instead of WTE, he said the best solution is to demand companies to adapt to environmentally friendly packaging, strict implementation of solid waste management ordinances, and creating more operational Materials Recovery Facility (MRF).

These initiatives, Peñalver said must be adopted as they are cost-efficient and can address the waste problem in the city as well as aid to income generation of the residents.

Citing for example the case of Mintal Resource Collectors Association (Mirca), where the community in Mintal, Davao City earns income from the waste management system, with assistance from the Philippines, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka (Phinla) project.

He called for the government to strictly enforce existing environmental conservation ordinances in the city, rather than diverting to another intervention which could lead to another bigger problem.

Wala pa gani ni nato ni natagaan og chance nga ma implement ning balaod, naa natay other in interventions nga dili man unta kadto ang intention sa policies, pero lahi ang solution nga ginahatag,” he said.



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