“They’re barking up the wrong tree,” Mayor Sara Duterte said addressing the Integrated Development Interventions (IDIS), an environment group who criticized her over her partnership with Mayor Kenji Kitakashi of Kitakyushu, Japan for a waste management project.
The mayor clarified the signing was for the technology assistance on waste management of the Kitakyushu Government to the city.
“They are barking up the wrong tree because the WTE (Waste to Energy) is with the private company particularly the Nippon Steel,” Duterte told Mirror. She said the signing was for the technology assistance of the Kitakyushu government to the city of Davao.
Integrated Development Interventions (IDIS) Executive Director Ann Fuertes told Mirror green groups were surprised with the signing between the two mayors in relation to WTE.
Fuertes said they trust on Duterte’s assurance that there is no commitment to go WTE with the recent signing but just more on technicalities on proper waste management.
The Sustainable Davao Movement (SDM) network, an alliance of 19 civil society groups and peoples organizations, said that the WTE facility is not the correct solution to address the city’s problem on waste disposal.
“When the Clean Air Act of 1999 (Sec. 20 of RA 8749) banned incineration, it was in recognition of the dangers of a burn-based technology. So why is the city entertaining this incineration-based technology, particularly when its safety nets rely on many factors, especially the volume and character of the wastes?” SDM member and Ecoteneo Executive Director Mylai Santos said.
The group has also questioned the appropriateness of the WTE strategy considering that the city cannot even meet the minimum volume requirement of the proposed facility.
“Yes, the daily wastes deposited at the Tugbok-Carmen landfill are 600-700 tons daily, but that is 60% organics, 20-30 percent recyclables and 10-20 percent residuals. CENRO data will show you that and in fact, the waste composition of Davao was the basis for the design of the landfill and its projected lifetime,” she said.
Santos said the assumption was, the landfill will handle only the residuals. That was why in 2013-2014 when strict segregation was being practiced, the volume was playing around 300-400 tons daily.
“If we are saying that we need WTE because our landfills are fast filling up, that is a dangerous road to take. Our landfills are full because we are not efficiently practicing segregation. No matter how technologically-sound the WTE will be, if we do not address our segregation, it will not be beneficial for us in the long run.”
The group also pointed out that the WTE facility’s by-products can create more problems because of its toxic and hazardous nature.
“The emission of dioxin, which is one of the most lethal persistent organic pollutants (POP) in the world today, should alarm every Dabawenyo,” Fuertes said.
Dioxin, according to Fuertes, is a by-product of burning plastic. It does not degrade easily which is why it can accumulate in body tissues and the environment, causing cancer and toxic effects for a very long time.
“Current literature on dioxin says that there is no safe dose for dioxin intake or exposure. It is so dangerous that even the US National Toxicology Program upgraded their classification of dioxin from ‘Reasonably Anticipated to be a Human Carcinogen’ to ‘Known to be a Human Carcinogen,’” she said.
“People can be affected by breathing the air coming from the WTE facility, or eating locally produced foods or drinking water from sources which have been contaminated by the air pollutants from the incinerator,” she added.
The SDM maintained that the city should instead focus on the strict implementation of its solid waste management program.
“We need to resume the strict compliance of our segregation policies especially in the barangay level,” said Cora Refulle, president of the people’s organization Bucana Coastal Environment Fisherfolk Association.
Refulle said that the daily load of trash that ends up on the coasts of the city has been increasing.
“There is still a lot of plastic that is being thrown in the rivers and canals and it ends up in our communities. People upstream have been neglecting in segregating their wastes.”, she said.
The group called for more consultations to discuss whether the WTE technology is the only valid option to address the city’s waste management concerns.
“We should hold a real public consultation on this, and get hold of experts from the public health sector and the WTE sector with a wide set of audience and stakeholders. We need to validate the questions and concerns on this technology in order for us to truly discern whether this is the right step in making Davao City sustainable,” Santos said.
To understand more about WTE, the group will conduct discussion of WTE WTE with expert Dr. Emmanuel George of Healthcare without Harm on December 5. (Maya M. Padillo, Mindanao Times)