Local Environmental Group Cautions Cebu City Against the Construction of an RDF Facility

Cebu City. The Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF) technology behind the JICA-proposed PHP 12 million plastic wastes processing facility at Inayawan Sanitary Landfill does not solve the bigger waste problem of the City and violates the Clean Air Act (R.A. 8749) and the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act (R.A. 9003).

In observance of the 14th year anniversary of the signing of R.A. 9003 today, the Cebu City-based Philippine Earth Justice Center (PEJC) made the statement after an Executive Session by the Cebu City Council was held last January 22 to discuss the group’s opposition and offer better solutions – together with the EcoWaste Coalition, Freedom from Debt Coalition, Kongreso ng Pagkakaisa ng Maralitang Lungsod, Mother Earth Foundation, Panaghiusa sa Manggagawan’ng Transportasyon and Sanlakas Sugbo – to the aforementioned proposal.

During the Executive Session, Mother Earth Foundation President Froilan Grate delivered a presentation citing best practices among local government units in ecological solid waste management that can address the burgeoning waste problem of the city. Councilor Alvin Dizon commended the same and endorsed that it be presented before the city’s Solid Waste Management Board.

JICA has tapped the services of Mansei Recycle Systems Co., Ltd. to implement the plastic waste processing facility project at Inayawan Sanitary Landfill in Cebu City. This facility will process mixed waste in the landfill and recycle it into plastic fluff, which will then be used to produce waste plastic-based fuel that will be sold to local cement manufacturers as an alternative to coal.

“The project is primarily an entrepreneurial activity as the city stands to gain from the revenues, but the public functions of the city – to implement environmental laws and to protect the health of the people and the environment – and the framework of sustainable development which should be adhered, are effectively sidelined,” said lawyer Gloria Estenzo Ramos, Coordinator of the PEJC.

“The wastes to be collected from the dumpsite are most likely contaminated and therefore hazardous, especially for our waste pickers and the people who will be working in that facility,” Ramos explained.

The basis of RDF technology is burning or incineration as the fuel produced from waste is burned in conventional incinerators and cement kilns. The burning of waste in the Philippines is explicitly prohibited under the Clean Air Act and R.A. 9003.

Ramos stressed that “a thorough study of the health and environmental impacts of the project, including measures to rehabilitate the area, is essential and required under our laws.”

“Should it continue with the project, the city shall likewise be in violation of two more prohibited acts (under Section 48, sections 14-16) of R.A. 9003,” she said.

In a recent study conducted by the University of San Carlos-Cebu, high mercury and toxic emissions were detected at the Inayawan Sanitary Landfill.

“Rather than embarking on a revenue-generating project designed only to earn money, it is more prudent for the city to prioritize measures to reduce environmental emissions and contamination and protect public health and ecosystems through a serious implementation of our laws,” she suggested.

“In addition, the city becomes liable for deaths or ailments if it will not exercise precautionary measures in ensuring a healthy environment for its constituents, especially the workers and waste pickers, whose health and security concerns need to be integrated under the National Framework Plan for the Informal Waste Sector,” she clarified.

PEJC further questioned the sustainability of the project as RDF’s by-product will add to the increasing toxic air pollution and carbon concentration in the atmosphere, to the detriment many people. It also mocks the sustainable paradigm that the Philippines is committed to promote, and even the city espouses under its Sustainability Ordinance, which is also not implemented.

“We reiterate our position that the enforcement of the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000, the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act, is long overdue and should already be given the attention they deserve,” PEJC said in a statement.

“We look forward to the much-needed crafting of the Solid Waste Management Plan and the Air Quality Management Plan to serve as our road map to a safe and sustainable tomorrow, and where citizens are conscious of their responsibility to avoid, minimize and recycle resources and lessen their carbon footprint,” the group added.