Officials: Eco-waste plant in city not etched in stone yet

November 18th, 2016 by

THE CITY government clarified that nothing is final yet on the partnership inked between Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio and officials of Kitakyushu, Japan.

The clarification came amid speculation that the city government already had an agreement to build a plant here.

The Strategic Environmental Partnership Agreement, signed at the conference hall of city hall Tuesday afternoon, is aimed at developing a joint model project in Davao making the city a “model for intercity cooperation in the Philippines.”

There was no expressed agreement yet that the city would establish the waste to energy plant.

The agreement will lead to the “development of the city environment focusing on waste management” and the “creation of a low-carbon society which is instrumental to the development of a green economy.”

According to Davao City officials, the only thing that was “final” was the study conducted by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) that said that “the city can accommodate a waste-to-energy facility that can improve its waste management program.”

Mayor Sara, in an interview during the signing of the MOA, herself said that there was still a need to reconcile the city’s existing solid waste management programs before the city government would need to discuss the establishment of a waste to energy plant here, if ever.

At the moment, the city maintains a sanitary landfill in New Carmen, Tugbok.

The mayor said that the city is planning to implement a more comprehensive materials recovery program, aside from the city’s required garbage segregation prior to collection by the City Environment and Natural Resources Office (Cenro).

In a statement, environmentalists said they were “concerned” over the possibility of the waste to energy plant being built.

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 of 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?” said SDM member and Ecoteneo executive director Mylai Santos.

The group 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% recyclables and 10-20% 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. 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,” she said.

“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 byproducts 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,” said IDIS executive director Ann Fuertes.

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.

“We need to resume the strict compliance of our segregation policies especially in the barangay level,” said Cora Refulle, president of the peoples organization Bucana Coastal Environment Fisherfolk Association.

Refulle pointed out 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.

The city government presented updated data on the dump sites.

In 2015, the city produced 916 tons of wastes daily. This is expected to rise up to 1,053 tons per day by 2021.

The city’s landfill in New Carmen, Tugbok is expected to be filled up in the next 5 to 7 years due to the increase of wastes produced daily.

“The issue on solid management and handling, carbon emissions, and global warming are universal ones and are a shared concern among all cities, including our cities,” said Mayor Sara.

“A partnership such as this is not only beneficial and timely, but has become necessary and encouraged.” ( Yas Ocampo, Mindanao Times)