Presidential candidates Grace Poe and Miriam Defensor Santiago earned praises from a waste and pollution watchdog group for their strong positions upholding the incineration ban.
The EcoWaste Coalition lauded the two women presidential aspirants for their clear-cut stance to enforce the ban on waste incineration that is enshrined in two major environmental laws: Republic Act 8749, or the Clean Air Act, and Republic Act 9003, or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act.
Through a questionnaire on wastes and toxics, the group asked presidential wannabes what steps they would take to stem the continuing violation of the incineration ban under the said laws, as well as the initiatives they would embark on to strengthen both laws.
In her response, Partido Galing at Puso candidate Poe, without mincing words, stated “only technologies that do not constitute incineration will be approved,” adding that she will “shut down existing incinerators that managed to circumvent the incineration ban.”
Candidate Santiago of the People’s Reform Party stated she will “immediately rescind the guideline that allows waste-to-energy facilities” to burn trash to generate electricity.
The guideline, which is being crafted by the National Solid Waste Management Commission, drew ire of environmentalists as this will undermine the incineration ban and open the floodgates to burn technologies.
On the other hand, the group found the response of Daang Matuwid candidate Mar Roxas disappointingly pro-incineration.
Roxas said that “as a general rule, laws must not ban technologies,” citing that “the Supreme Court decision has clarified that what is banned is incineration that emits toxic fumes,” which he said “must be strictly enforced.”
Contrary to his views, the EcoWaste Coalition stressed there is no such thing as a pollution-free incinerator and that such facilities, including their modern variants inevitably emit noxious and carcinogenic pollutants to the environment either via the smokestack or the ash generated by the combustion process.
The group added that the views propounded by Roxas on the issue are exactly the same ones being used by incinerator pushers to circumvent the incineration ban.
To generate energy, Poe will “pursue energy diversification, focusing on renewables, geothermal, and natural gas, to eliminate the need for waste-to-energy facilities, reduce our dependence on coal and oil, and prevent or reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions.”
Poe also pledged to “strengthen the campaign for proper waste segregation (5Rs – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Repair, Redesign) at the barangay level to achieve zero waste or reduce residual waste that will be transported to sanitary landfills.”
“Strengthening waste segregation will create opportunities to build cooperatives and enterprises around composting, recycling, repairing, reusing, and repurposing of discards, and reduce residual waste that make their way to landfills,” she explained.
Santiago added she will “pursue the use of waste for renewable energy, but will limit such efforts to biomass.”
Santiago pointed out that the “slow movement toward the goals of the Clean Air Act and the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act is an implementation issue.”
“My government will address this, first by determining baseline data to identify appropriate strategies and to more effectively monitor progress. It will also help us know the costs of planned programs, so that we can identify alternative options, if necessary,” she said.
Finally, the EcoWaste Coalition lamented the ironic absence of responses to the survey from Vice President Jejomar Binay and Mayor Rodrigo Duterte whose long experiences running their respective cities should have given them more informed perspectives on how to tackle the waste crisis responsibly.