Zamboanga Sibugay

Zamboanga Sibugay plans waste-to-energy facility to solve trash woes

Antonio Manaytay
Zamboanga Sibugay plans waste-to-energy facility to solve trash woes

TRASH PROBLEM. Workers collect garbage in Barangay Sanito, Ipil town, Zamboanga Sibugay, on December 20, 2021.

Antonio Manaytay/Rappler

Environmentalists say the method planned by Zamboanga Sibugay towns will create more problems for the environment at a time of climate emergency

ZAMBOANGA SIBUGAY, Philippines – With their open dumpsite closed down, several Zamboanga Sibugay towns look to waste-to-energy (WTE) technology to solve their worsening solid waste disposal problem, but an environmental group is frowning upon this approach.

Felix Badon, environmental and natural resources officer of Ipil town, said the local government would sign an agreement with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to establish a WTE facility in the municipality.

The technology would allow non-recyclable wastes to be turned into usable heat, electricity, or fuel through incineration.

But environmentalists disagreed.

Marian Ledesma, a campaigner of Greenpeace Philippines, said the WTE method would only create more problems for the environment.

“At a time when we are grappling with the climate emergency and a pandemic, we should not pursue WTE as it puts Filipinos and the environment at risk,” she said.

The plan, according to Badon, is to cluster several municipalities to “generate enough volume of wastes.”

These municipalities include Tungawan, RT Lim, Ipil, Titay, Naga, and Kabasalan.

If plans don’t miscarry, Ipil will be the host municipality for the pilot project in Zamboanga Sibugay.

Officials said the regional office of the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) and the mayors of these towns would formalize an agreement for the P25-million project.

The plan is to turn the closed sanitary landfill into a site for the WTE facility. The 9.5-hectare dumpsite in Ipil, the capital town of Zamboanga Sibugay, was closed down on September 23 for violation of environmental laws.

Since the closure of the dumpsite, barangays took over the collection and disposal of kitchen wastes and household refuse. But they could only dispose of some 60% of the 15 tons of biodegradable garbage churned out by Ipil town alone daily.

Only the residual wastes are collected by the municipal government.

Since the shutdown, Badon said, most of the town’s 28 barangays have been struggling in managing their wastes.

The planned WTE facility, he said, would solve the growing problem of solid waste disposal not only in Ipil but also in the towns under the cluster.

But Ledesma said waste-burning technologies should be stopped because they will “produce greenhouse gas emissions and toxic pollutants.”

“The carbon emissions of WTE will worsen the plight of climate-impacted communities,” she said.

Ledesma urged the local governments to “exclude thermal WTE from their plans to protect people from public health hazards and climate crisis.”

The plan would only encourage more wastes generation instead of enhancing ecological solid waste management, Ledesma said.

Badon conceded that the method is not environmentally friendly.

But he said the concerns were addressed by the Department and Natural Resources (DENR) with its guidelines on the operation of WTE facilities.

Badon said these ensure that municipal waste problems are solved using the technology without violating the Philippine Clean Air Act of 1999.

In 2019, DENR issued Administrative Order 2019-21 to guide the establishment and operationalization of WTE facilities in the country.

The guidelines outlined the requirements in the evaluation, establishment, operation, and decommissioning of WTE facilities. –

Antonio Manaytay is a Mindanao-based journalist and an awardee of the Aries Rufo Journalism Fellowship