Cebu City. Some 50 representatives of various local government units (LGUs) in Cebu province, Office of the Environmental Ombudsman-Visayas, as well as environmental and health advocates from the civil society today converged at the Cebu Provincial Capitol to critically look at waste-to-energy (WtE) incineration schemes that have penetrated the country, including Cebu.
The multi-stakeholder forum was initiated by the Cebu-based Philippine Earth Justice Center (PEJC), Freedom From Debt Coalition-Cebu, the Quezon City-based EcoWaste Coalition and local partners to increase awareness and support for low cost, ecological and sustainable non-burn technologies that will support and protect the incineration ban under the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act (RA 9003) and the Clean Air Act (RA 8749), which is being threatened by regressive legislative bills and WtE schemes.
Lawyer Gloria Estenzo-Ramos, PEJC Co-Trustee and Co-Founder, specifically mentioned House Bill 3161 filed by Caloocan 2nd District Rep. Edgar Erice, which seeks to amend Section 20 of the Clean Air Act to allow the use of incinerators to burn municipal, bio-medical and hazardous wastes.
“This is downright regression reflecting the government’s utter lack of political will and its obsession with quick fixes instead of genuinely enforcing our progressive environmental policies,” she said.
“If only firmly and correctly enforced, RA 9003 could efficiently reduce the volume and toxicity of waste and tone down, if not reverse, prevailing throw‐away mentality. Instead of lifting the incineration ban and opting for quick fixes, the government should strengthen the enforcement of the ban, including increasing penalties for non-performing officials and violators,” she said.
Aside from seeking support against regressive policy measures, she cautioned LGUs against embracing WtE hook, line and sinker, warning that such projects might only exacerbate the province’s battle with garbage and pollution, aside from violating existing laws.
Visiting toxics policy expert Lee Bell from Australia echoed Ramos’ statement, maintaining that “the people of the Philippines should be proud of their laws banning waste incineration and should be cautious against deceptive WtE projects.”
“The incineration ban gives your country a chance to leap frog expensive and polluting incinerator technologies and move toward zero waste practices and a sustainable society. It would be a backward step to reverse these laws,” added Bell.
“There are much better ways to maximize recovery of resources from waste while saving energy, improving agriculture and creating jobs than to lock your county into decades of waste incineration,” explained Bell.
“Many developed countries fell into this trap and are now struggling to break free of it. The Philippines is in a unique position to avoid the dead-end waste policy of incineration and move rapidly to a more competitive and sustainable society through zero waste practices,” he added.
The EcoWaste Coalition has invited Lee Bell of Western Australia to share his scientific and technical expertise and campaigning experience on waste-to-energy, incineration and other pollution issues in a series of fora and meetings from March 4 to 7 in Cebu and Quezon Cities.