Duterte’s Waste Disposal Plan Worries Environmental Groups


Environmental groups urged President Rodrigo Duterte to seriously reconsider his plan to adopt waste-to-energy (WtE) facilities to deal with Metro Manila’s burgeoning garbage estimated at 9,213 tons per day.

In his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) yesterday, Duterte announced: “To have adequate disposal facilities for the Metro Manila garbage, the final closure and rehabilitation of the Carmona Sanitary Landfill shall be pursued while the adoption of appropriate waste-to-energy facilities will be explored. Marami yan. The technology is coming very fast.”

The presidential pronouncement in favor of WtE has left Zero Waste advocates worried, warning that incinerating waste will have many negative environmental, health and social consequences.

“Not all WtE options are safe, legal and acceptable.  Incinerators masquerading as WtE are false and expensive solutions to the garbage problem.  The government has to be extra cautious about endorsing such magic bullet technologies, especially when the solution to the garbage problem lies in the full implementation of Republic Act 9003, the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act,” stated environmental activist Von Hernandez of Greenpeace.

“A shift to thermal WtE, a quick-fix ‘solution,’ will undermine the nation’s efforts to sustainably deal with its garbage through recycling, composting and other Zero Waste strategies that are embodied in R.A. 9003.  Instead of burning discards, the government and the private sector need to invest more on redesigning products and on waste prevention and reduction activities excluding incineration.  Local government units, who are primarily in charge of R.A. 9003’s implementation, need to wake up from their slumber and fully enforce the law,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition. 

“We would caution the new government not to put too much faith in WtEs.  These are old technologies repackaged to escape the stigma of pollution and contamination to communities.  There is no magic technology to dispose of waste.  What is needed is an overhaul of our solid waste management system rooted in corruption, irresponsibility and inefficiency,” said Anne Larracas, Priority Project and Network Support Officer, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives.

“WtE is actually a misnomer as burning materials that could be reused, recycled or composted destroy the energy-saving potential of putting those discards to better use,” Sonia Mendoza, Chairman, Mother Earth Foundation.  “Recycling conserves 3 to 5 times the energy that WtE power plants generate,” she added.

Rene Pineda, President of the Partnership for Clean Air, said: “WtE is unacceptable because it is a violation of Republic Act 8749, the Clean Air Act.  We will fight all attempts to legalize WtEs.”

According to the groups, the push for WtE will contradict Duterte’s statement that his “administration shall implement a humane approach to development and governance, as we improve our people’s welfare in the areas of health, education, adequate food and water, housing, environmental preservation, and respect for culture.”

“WtEs will put the people’s welfare and the environment at risk,” the groups said.

“Also, if the government wants to create more sustainable jobs for our people, then the WtE schemes are not the way to go.  WtE facilities will compete with recycling and composting for funds and materials, while creating far fewer jobs,” the groups pointed.  

“In lieu of costly WtEs, we urge the government to go for Zero Waste strategies, including the inclusion of the informal waste workers into the formal waste management programs where they can enjoy decent and secure employment,” the groups suggested.

The groups expressed their commitment to dialogue with the Duterte administration, particularly with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the National Solid Waste Management Commission, in order to effectively enforce R.A. 9003 and mainstream sustainable waste management solutions that will exclude thermal WtEs.