DAVAO CITY, Philippines — As the election campaign heats up, local environment groups urge candidates to look on an important issue that contributes to climate change.
In a silent protest action, these groups gathered in front of the Sangguniang Panlungsod Tuesday afternoon while the City Council is in session, to urge the council to stop the Waste-to-Energy (WTE) project that the city seeks to solve the problem of disposing city waste materials.
Jill Banta of Plastic-Free Pilipinas said the proposed incineration project will “put at risk the health and environment basing its concern from an epidemiological study in the community surrounding a WTE incinerators that its emission can potentially reach and harm those within 10-km-radius of the facility.”
“Base sa mga pag-aaral ng mga siyentipiko na yung mga within 10-kilometer radius of the incinerator ay pinaka affected by the toxic emissions such as yung tinatawag na dioxin and furans (Based on scientific studies, those within the 10-kilometer radius of the incinerator will be the most affected by toxic emissions such as dioxin and furans),” Banta said in an interview.
She cited the study of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States of America that explains that dioxins and furans are created when other chemicals or products are made during burning of forests or household trash. Once exposed to large amounts of these chemicals people can develop skin conditions called chloracne, liver problems, and elevated lipids (fats), cancer and reproductive problems.
20 Davao barangays to be affected
Under the 10-kilometer radius the environment groups said the incinerator will affect 20 barangays that will include Angalan, Balengaeng, Biao Guianga, Callawa, Catalunan Grande, Langub, Los Amigos, Matina Biao, Mintal, New Carmen, New Valencia, Riverside, Sto Nino, Tacunan, Tagakpan, Talandang, Tugbok, Ula and Waan while the “worst-hit” will be Barangay Biao Escuela with a population of 3,000 residents living in an agricultural community.
“Ang gusto naming ipanawagan sa ating local government na doon tayo sa totoong renewal at malinis na energy hindi sa dirty energy source such as waste-to-energy incineration dahil ang waste incineration ay pagsusunog sa basura sa planta at itong pagsusunog ng basura ay parang pagsusunog na rin ng fossil fuel na syang nagpapainit dito sa ating klima at syang nagdudulot ng extreme weather conditions, ng malalakas na bagyo, ng tag-tuyot kung saan ang pinaka bulnerable ay yung mga mahihirap, yung mga magsasaka, yung mga fisherfolks, mga urban poo,” Banta explained during their silent protest.
(“We want to address the local government that we vie for real and clean renewal energy, and not with dirty energy source such as waste-to-energy incineration, because with waste incineration, we burn wastes and this is just like burning fossil fuel which contributes to heating our climate that results to extreme weather conditions, stronger typhoons, and drought where the most vulnerable to these are the poor, the farmers, the fisherfolks, the urban poor.)
“Kaya nananawagan kami sa Davao City Council at sa mga candidates sa local and national elections pati na rin sa ating current mayor, (We urge the Davao City Council and the candidates in the local and national elections, and to our Mayor Inday Sara Duterte), reject waste-to-energy incineration and support Zero Waste solution,” Banta added.
Quick fix, expensive, discourages recycling
The organization Green Juris from the Ateneo de Davao University College of Law released a position paper urging the city government to cancel its incineration project.
The group said the project will cause harmful impacts to lives and the environment, is expensive and may discourage recycling and other sustainable waste management methods.
Opting for this project requires imposition of strict environmental standards, which the group questions the city council if it has made enough study.
“WTE incineration alone cannot solve problems; reducing waste at the source followed by reusing and recycling is an integral part of waste management and should be considered prior to designing a WTE incineration plant. WTE incineration should also be embedded in an integrated solid waste management system that is tailored to specific local conditions, such as waste composition, collection and recycling, financing, and other aspects. Thus, it begs the question whether there really are ample resources to maintain such high standards in making WTE a successful venture or will it only magnify the issue of waste mismanagement.”
It also stressed out that the project is just a ‘quick-fix’ solution to reduce rapidly growing waste volumes while producing energy and “among the worst approaches cities can take to achieve waste reduction and energy goals.”
The waste incineration project is a P2.5 billion grant from the Japanese Government through Official Development Assistance (ODA) which aims to build a facility to reduce the solid waste problem and convert it to electricity. It is awaiting approval from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
Environment groups have opposed this, opting for more viable safe alternatives to address the city’s growing waste disposal problems, such as banning single-use plastics. One of the groups also point out that half of the city’s 600 tons of garbage collected daily are biodegradables.
On Tuesday’s regular session, Councilor Pamela Librado-Morata, who voted against the WTE project, made her privileged speech stressing sustainable alternatives towards implementing zero waste management in the city.
“More viable and sustainable alternatives are already ongoing in Davao City. Thus, we should continue towards implementing zero waste management as this is healthier and environment-friendly and can generate more sustainable livelihood for our workers. This also ensures that we are doing our duty to protect the environment for future generations,” she said.
Morata in an interview hopes that in the next city council will review the provisions under the ordinance that gives the go signal to the city government to install WTE facilities despite strong support from the Duterte administration. (davaotoday.com)