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ROUGH CUTS | WTE: that long overdue project

WE FULLY agree to the proposal of Second District of Davao City Councilor Louie John Bonguyan to push through with the Waste-to-Energy (WTE) project that was discussed sometime in 2016.
The proposed project would have solved a looming problem for the city which is the already maximized utilization of the (un)Sanitary Landfill site in New Carmen, Tugbok District.

In a forum last February 13, councilor Bonguyan who is chair of the SP Committee on Energy and Water, said that the project offered to be funded by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) is “long overdue.” He added that it would have addressed the city’s looming problem of where to dump the 650 to 800 tons of garbage collected daily.

The present Sanitary Landfill site in New Carmen in Tugbok district is already on its maximum capacity. Therefore, time is not far that the garbage dumped in the area will be swelling and causing the further degradation of the city’s environment.

Yes, with the Carmen dump site already in full capacity as early as 10 years ago, the city has no other option but to look for another location for its new sanitary landfill. JICA then came proposing to help by offering funding assistance to construct a WTE facility somewhere in Biao Escuela also of Tugbok district.

The planned WTE project would not have addressed only the problem of disposing the tons of garbage from the city but also provides an alternative source of energy for the city’s population. As the name itself suggests the plant’s capacity to burn 600 metric tons of waste in the process also generates up to 12 megawatts of energy. The facility which would have become a property of the city government, can then sell the power to the grid at a relatively lower cost. Therefore, it follows that the local power distributor in Davao City could make downward adjustments in its retail distribution cost to consumers.
Despite the clear advantages of the WTE project the environmentalist group Interface Development Interventions for Sustainability (IDIS) strongly opposed to the project claiming it is “detrimental to the ecology and public health.” The group insisted then that the project violates the Solid Waste Management Act (RA 9003) and the Clean Air Act (RA 8749).

But many are wondering which is really highly detrimental to the environment, the open dumping of garbage transported to the Sanitary Landfill site in uncovered dump trucks that are lined up at the gate of the landfill compound daily while waiting for its turn to unload its noxious cargo, or the direct transport of the garbage to the burning chamber of the WTE facility and its subsequent generation of some 12 MW power?

These days also the city will surely have a hard time finding an appropriate area for a new Sanitary Landfill facility. If it can it has to be much farther from densely populated areas of the city. That would simply mean a much costlier acquisition of the land and bigger budget needed to foot the bill of contracting garbage haulers.

And even if the haulers are organic personnel of the local government and the vehicles are owned by the city as well, still the high cost of fuel and vehicle maintenance, as well as salaries of employees, will mean a much bigger operating and personnel budget annually.

Anyhow, does IDIS have any project in mind to address that particular problem of disposing the city’s tons and tons of garbage? Will such project of theirs not affect the environment? If it has why not the group come up with its proposal; offer it to the city for consideration? If its proposed project is acceptable to the local government IDIS might want to do its own search for funders if not within the city’s capacity?

Personally, we feel it awkward for any group or person to keep on opposing development projects considered by government or even by private groups without offering projects they believe are in accordance with their parameters.

Of course we submit that IDIS is one serious guardian for the cause of the environment. What the group is doing are reminders that there are those who continuously keep eyes on human activities that interfere with nature.

But as we said, it is about time that such group as IDIS brings its cause one or two steps higher. Its responsibility of being the environment’s guardian should not anymore be limited to mere manifesting strongly its opposition to projects. It has to offer alternative proposals.

Perhaps Councilor Louie John can engage IDIS in helping streamline his push for the WTE. Let IDIS provide him the inputs he needs to make the project with substantial Return of Investment (ROI) both for the city’s ecology and its economy, and its population.


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