2019 Senatorial Candidates to Defend Ban on Waste Incineration

Several candidates gunning for 12 Senate slots led by reelectionist Senators Bam Aquino, Nancy Binay and Grace Poe and former Bayan Muna Party-list Representative Neri Colmenares won praises from environmental groups for their clear and strong positions in support of the national ban against waste incineration that is enshrined in two major pollution prevention laws.

In the pre-election survey conducted by the EcoWaste Coalition and No Burn Pilipinas, along with the Green Thumb Coalition, senatorial aspirants were asked if they support or oppose proposals to repeal the incineration ban in the Clean Air Act (RA 8749) enacted in 1999, a landmark piece of legislation that was further strengthened  by the passage of the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act (RA 9003) in 2000. 

The candidates were further asked to reveal what legislative or oversight remedies would  they introduce to ensure that RA 9003 and zero waste programs are mainstreamed across the country.

“We are encouraged and energized by the positions of some senatorial bets on keeping the incineration ban intact, which surely is a boost to our advocacy.  We need many strong voices at the Senate, as well as in the House of Representatives, to preserve and uphold the waste incineration ban –- an essential resource conservation and pollution prevention law –- amid undying threat to have it repealed,” said Glenn Ymata, Campaign Manager, No Burn Pilipinas.

“Environmental health groups, informal waste workers and affected communities are keeping a close watch on recurring attempts to rescind the ban on waste incineration and propagate ‘waste-to-energy’ incineration as ‘solution’ to the country’s garbage woes.  We intend to work with our pro-environment and pro-sustainability lawmakers to have the incineration ban effectively enforced,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

The responses of candidates Aquino, Binay and Poe, together with Neri Colmenares, Leody de Guzman, Florin Hilbay, Sonny Matula and Erin Tañada, according to the groups, provided a much-needed shot in the arm for the country’s zero waste movement.

“I approve of technologies that do not constitute incineration,” declared independent candidate Grace Poe, who added that she “fully supports policies that 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.”

United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) candidate Nancy Binay was equally uncompromising in her response. “I will oppose (proposals to repeal the incineration ban), and seek ways to minimize or all together stop the generation of waste.”  She added: “There is a need to take a look at the national budget and ensure that the law is funded, from the budget proposal up to the President’s signing of the General Appropriations Act. The DILG should look at the compliance of local government units with the law, and strictly incorporate and institutionalize environmental protection in their Seal of Good Local Governance criteria.”

Liberal Party candidate Bam Aquino said “if re-elected, I would oppose any proposal to lower environmental standards already provided by RA 9003.”  Fellow LP candidate Erin Tañada said “we need to implement proper waste segregation and full implementation of RA 9003 before we consider waste-to-energy incineration options.”

“The ban on incineration in the Clean Air Act should be retained and defended,” stated Makabayan candidate Neri Colmenares. “RA 9003 puts the largest burden of achieving zero waste on LGUs.
While we can put up stiffer penalties and strengthen oversight on LGUs towards zero waste, what is missing is responsibilizing other key actors that are more responsible for waste generation –
manufacturers and industry in general.”

“This is a track we want to study about waste reduction and eventual elimination,” Colmenares said.

Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino candidate Leody de Guzman asserted that “the incineration ban in the Clean Air Act should not be removed,” a decision unanimously adopted by the last National Congress of BMP.

Federation of Free Workers candidate Sonny Matula pointed out that “environmental laws should be synergized,” adding that  “the incineration ban under the Clean Air Act and the Ecological Waste Management Act should prevail over the provisions under the Renewable Energy Law that inadvertently allowed waste-to-energy projects.”

Aksyon Demokratiko candidate Florin Hilbay also declared he will oppose proposals to repeal the incineration ban.

On the other hand,  Gary Alejano of Magdalo Party-list clarified: “Although I have initially filed a bill promoting waste incineration, because of its actual utility in addressing the waste problem, I am open to act on alternative solutions.”  He cited anaerobic digestion plant as a wise solution for biodegradable solid waste. 

Chel Diokno of the Liberal Party, said: “I will keep an open mind on waste to energy (the burn kind) once we reach 80 to 90 percent segregation.  Even then I would be skeptical but nevertheless open to the possibility.”