waste management

Environment advocates urge mayor to scrap Cebu City waste-to-energy deal

John Sitchon
Environment advocates urge mayor to scrap Cebu City waste-to-energy deal

LANDFILL. Collectors dump garbage at a landfill in Inayawan, Cebu City.

Leodb/Wikimedia Commons

Cebu City councilors are divided over the proposed construction of a waste-to-energy facility

CEBU, Philippines – Environmental advocacy group EcoWaste Coalition urged Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama on Friday, March 11, not to sign a joint venture agreement (JVA) with New Sky Energy Inc. (NSEI) for a waste-to-energy (WTE) facility in Cebu City.

“We urge Mayor [Mike] Rama to reconsider this incinerator proposal. The city should not jump at this quick-fix solution that in the end will be a burden to the city and will threaten the people’s health, welfare, and sources of livelihood,” Lievj Alimangohan of EcoWaste Coalition said in a statement sent to media.

Under the JVA, the city will permit the energy company to construct and operate the WTE facility for 40 years before handing it over to the city government.

The city will also receive a 3% share from gross power sales revenues, and 5% of the revenues from sales of all other by-products.

The resolution to authorize the mayor to sign the JVA was already approved in a council session on Wednesday with nine voting for the project, five voting against it, and two abstentions. The mayor has yet to be signed by the mayor.

When asked if Cebu City Mayor Mike Rama would sign the JVA, his spokesperson Karla Henry-Ammann told Rappler that “Mayor Rama trusts the city council has done the proper steps and followed protocol regarding the passing of the JVA.”

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The proposal for the WTE facility was first introduced in September 2019 by Allan Cirsologo, president of New Sky Energy Inc., and has undergone several reviews by the city’s Joint Venture Selection Committee ever since.

So far, there is no specific location for the project.

Cebu City Councilor Joel Garganera, the chairperson on the committee on the environment, pointed out during Wednesday’s council session that the city would not have to provide land for the project.

Instead, the company will be given a year to secure land for the project at no expense to the city.

Councilors in favor of the WTE facility, including Garganera, believe it is one of the possible solutions to the city’s perennial struggle to collect and manage the over 180,000 tons of waste the metropolitan city produces per year.

Garganera said that WTE is “the way to go,” adding that developed countries like the Netherlands and Denmark have WTE facilities. The said facility is expected to produce enough energy to power at least 16,000 households.

“It will improve our environmental performance index score. As of now, the Philippines is at 111 when you talk about EPI score,” Garganera said.

Councilors Nestor Archival, Eugenio Gabuya, Jr., and Alvin Dizon, who opposed the project, questioned the JVA for its lack of “clarity” and its environmental consequences.

Under the agreement, city would deliver the 800 tons of garbage to the WTE facility per day and pay the company a tipping fee of P1,000 per ton of waste in the first three years of operation, P1,150 per ton in the fourth to the sixth year, and P1,300 per ton in the seventh to the ninth year.

Dizon told Rappler that “allowing the WTE to operate would only increase the city’s generation of trash and that it would undermine environmentally sound approaches to managing discards while producing highly toxic pollutants that are harmful to public health.”

WTE facilities work by burning trash to produce steam in a boiler that is used to generate electricity.

Dizon also claimed there were studies saying pollution from WTE is more than 20 times the potency of carbon dioxide and is ranked as a dangerous contributor to climate change.

Environmental advocates have been flagging similar proposals for the construction of WTE in other parts of the country for several years.

Jorge Agustin O. Emmanuel, a Silliman University expert on managing waste, was quoted in a BusinessWorld report in November 2021 saying WTE was just “incineration in disguise.”

“WTE is simply waste incineration in disguise. It burns tons of municipal wastes to generate a small amount of net energy while emitting massive amounts of toxic pollutants and greenhouse gases,” Emmanuel said.

Garganera told Rappler that NSEI’s WTE technology has undergone an environmental technology verification by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

He said the report stated the technology used would reduce garbage volume by up to 91.48% and that it “operates within the standards set by law.” – Rappler.com

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