Opposing the implementation of the Waste-to-Energy (WTE) project, Green Juris and other environmentalists urged to halt the implementation of proposed WTE facilities in Davao City by initiating courtesy calls to city councilors and discussing its legal aspects and health risks.
“We believe in more sustainable solutions,” Ateneo de Davao University (AdDU) law student David Oquendo stated.
Green Juris, an environmental organization composed of AdDU law students, presented a position paper directed to the city council, calling to suspend the efforts on the said project and remove the WTE project from the 10-year solid waste management plan.
“Their respective offices were happy to receive our paper, and we are hopeful that they will read and consider the facts and data we presented upon deciding on pursuing or halting the plans on establishing WTE facilities in Davao,” Stephen Geronilla of Green Juris told Atenews.
Green Juris continues to launch multiple initiatives anchored on inter-generational responsibility for environmental preservation.
“Green Juris’ stance against the WTE facilities is anchored on the economic, environmental, health and legal drawbacks of implementing such undertaking,” Geronilla further stated.
On the other hand, Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) staff Engr. Mark Vergel B. Borja introduced the challenges confronted by Davao, presenting the project’s status for constructing WTE facilities in a webinar entitled, “Is waste-to-energy a waste of energy?”
According to Engr. Borja, the sanitary landfills (SLFs) in Davao, will need help to keep up with the demand for waste disposal.
“Operating sanitary landfills way beyond their supposed capacity poses a health risk and pollution.”
He further argued that the viability of the Waste-to-Energy project relies on the quantity and quality analysis generated by Davao and the permission granted by the city government.
Oquendo, however, stated how this situation leaves everybody in the backline, addressing incineration as an ‘underminer’ in Davao’s zero waste objectives.
“Garbage can be easily disposed of by burning rather than recycling. It creates a culture of neglecting to recycle.”
Philippine Earth Justice Center, Inc. (PEJC) Atty. Christine Argallon supported this claim by providing the legal aspects of the opposition to the WTE project, “It’s really alarming, we are getting to a point of importing waste from other countries, which is [also] a different discussion.”
Oquendo also implied that WTE contravenes existing laws, which go against Republic Act No. 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000.
“At the end of the day, it goes back to the provisions of our constitution; we are talking about the right to life and the equity of the Filipino citizens that we do stand up in these issues. It violates our human rights and environment,” Atty. Argallon added.
A master in public health from Harvard School of Public Health, Dr. Hector M. Gaela, discussed the meta-analyses of the health impacts of traditional waste incineration and WTE air emissions.
“There is insufficient evidence to conclude that any incineration is safe. Diseases from exposures (to Waste Incineration) tend to manifest only after many years of cumulative exposure, so it is premature to conclude that these newer technologies improve safety.”
He reminded to not be hasty in the decision-making process of the WTE project, prioritizing first the management of known health issues before venturing into the “unknown” realm.
Standing as the regulatory body for WTE, senior environmental and management specialist Engr. Leslie Balneg-Rubin claimed that amidst the supposed violation of RA 9003, ‘incineration’ is not precisely banned, but burning positive and toxic fumes is.
She also showed provisions from RA 9003 that limit the value of emitted dioxin and furans released from WTE facilities, stating that it shall be its ‘anchor’ for strict monitoring.
“Just to clear the score of speakers of a forum, the EMB doesn’t actually recommend only WTE as an option for waste management; we must emphasize that waste management is only a portion of [the] waste management hierarchy. It is the least preferred option; thus, in our work and financial plan of the bureau, we emphasize the waste management plans. Reuse and recycling are [still] the main options of government units,” Engr. Borja said.
A search for alternatives
Pushing for more sustainable alternatives to WTE establishments, CEO of Plantbox Innovation Renz Adlawan presented their advocacy of creating sustainable communities from Plantbox circular economies.
“The main goal as a start-up, promote sustainable communities,” Adlawan stated.
It also aims to upscale material facilities’ segregation and recycling efforts (MRFs) at barangay levels, especially in Brgy. Biao Escuela, where WTE facilities are planning to be located.
“With proper utilization of the government, businesses and individuals can help reduce waste through sustainable actions,” Oquendo supported as he presented some alternatives to WTE.
He also enumerated policy-making directives through waste hierarchy and the complete ban on single-use plastics as options.
With the purpose of mitigating the effects on the environment and human health, Engr. Borja showed the planned waste management system in Davao City.
Geronilla further explained that if ever this ‘courtesy call’ by Green Juris would not be considered and will proceed with the implementation of WTE facilities in Davao, they will ensure that the guidelines set by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) will be strictly followed.
“The violation of these guidelines requires strict compliance as one of the consequences includes immediate closure of the facility.”
Engr. Argallon proceeded to reassure that if there is an imminent threat to life or safety, an interim order will be immediately issued by the DENR secretary without a prior public hearing.