Green groups belonging to No Burn Pilipinas alliance denounced the approval yesterday by the House of Representatives (HoR) Committee on Ecology of a bill repealing the waste incineration ban under R.A. 8749, or the Clean Air Act of 1999.
The Bangon Kalikasan Movement, EcoWaste Coalition, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Health Care Without Harm and the Mother Earth Foundation criticized the committee for hastily giving the nod to the Regulation of Thermal Treatment Technology Act proposed by Aklan Rep. Carlito Marquez and others that consequently revokes Section 20 of R.A. 8749.
Considered a milestone in pollution prevention, the incineration ban disallows “the burning of municipal, biomedical and hazardous waste, which process emits poisonous and toxic fumes.” R.A. 9003, or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000, reinforced the ban by requiring the “adoption of the best practice in ecological waste management excluding incineration.”
Decrying the absence of serious efforts by the HoR to conduct balanced and comprehensive studies on the issue, green groups slammed the Committee for the haste and lack of transparency that attended the process, especially given the serious health, socio-economic, and public health implications of the proposed measure.
Currently marketed by the industry as so-called “waste-to-energy” plants, these facilities, aside from increasing cancer risks, are more expensive than coal and nuclear plants, more harmful to the climate than coal, and generate very little electricity while burning up resources that may still be recovered, reused or recycled, the groups asserted.
“The pro-incineration bill is unconstitutional and threatens to create massive disaster to the environment and irreversible damage to the health of all people, especially children for generations to come," stated Joey Papa, President, Bangon Kalikasan Movement.
Papa pointed out that incineration violates Section 16 of the Philippine Constitution of 1987 ("The State shall protect and advance the right of the people to a balanced and healthful ecology in accord with the rhythm and harmony of nature."); Section 20 of R.A. 8749 ("Incineration... the burning of municipal, biomedical, and hazardous waste, which process emits poisonous and toxic fumes, is hereby prohibited."); and Section 3 of R.A. 9003 ("Resource recovery shall refer to the collection, extraction or recovery of recyclable materials from the waste stream for the purpose of recycling, generating energy or producing a product suitable for beneficial use: Provided that such resource recovery facilities exclude incineration.").
“Far from solving our garbage woes, the lifting of the incineration ban as proposed by some lawmakers will only compound our problems as incinerators can inflict harm to human health and the ecosystems, contribute significantly to environmental pollution and global warming, and fuel an unsustainable system of unbridled production, crass consumerism, and throw-away culture," said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.
“Burning trash is a regressive approach to waste management that is being phased out in other parts of the world which are now pursuing a more sustainable circular economy,” said Lea Guerrero, climate and clean energy campaigner of Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA). “Our lawmakers must reject this bill. We are also calling on President Rodrigo Duterte to seriously reconsider his plans to pursue incineration which puts the Filipino people’s welfare and the environment at risk.”
"Incineration will be tantamount to national regression. It will be an illogical step backward. We already have the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, which adheres to the ways and rhythms of nature, the best in the world. Instead of making it work with the needed political will, why would we go to a dangerous, expensive technology that many advanced nations are turning their back on?," said Dr. Angelina Galang, President, Green Convergence.
“No Burn Pilipinas believes that the haste surrounding the bill is highly irregular and deplorable given that what is under deliberation will undermine cornerstone environmental laws,” said Ramon San Pascual, executive director of Health Care Without Harm. “This issue deserves more deliberation and public discussion than the hurried token consultations our honorable representatives have deemed sufficient.”
According to Sonia Mendoza, chairman of Mother Earth Foundation, “The push to repeal the incineration ban will undermine source segregation, recycling, and other Zero Waste strategies that conserve precious resources, avoid toxic pollution, and generate livelihoods and jobs. Instead of overturning the prohibition on waste burning, Congress should in fact strengthen it by supporting the strict implementation of RA 9003 through innovative Zero Waste projects in the country.”
No Burn Pilipinas is an alliance of civil society groups who are advocating Zero Waste technologies and are calling on the government to uphold the ban on waste incineration.