OPEN LETTER | Waste-to-Energy incineration is NOT a REAL solution

Aug. 24, 2022

Photo courtesy of Sustainable Davao Movement

*An open letter from Ecoteneo dated August 23, 2022, in response to the resolution issued by Councilor Tek Ocampo asking the national government to allocate a fund for the development of a Waste-to-Energy (WTE) incineration facility in Davao City.

Dear Honorable Councilor Tek,

Pax Christi and peace with all of Creation!

We were utterly surprised and verily disheartened to learn about the resolution that your office issued today, under suspended rules at the session of the Sangguniang Panlungsod.

In our July meeting, you had said that you have no position on the issue yet since you will be studying it more. You had also asked us on our position on the matter which we summarized as follows:

(1) The WTE Incineration is INCONSISTENT with and counteracts the goals of ecowaste management in RA 9003 which is to reduce-at-source (and not at the endpipe, which will only transform the physical volume to a health hazard: cancer-causing dioxin emissions, heavy metals such as lead and mercury, particulate matter which cause lung and heart disease);

(2) Government has no capacity to monitor dioxin emissions. This was verified by the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) personnel at the recent updating of the Comprehensive Development Plan (2023-2028) held last July 2022;

(3) The energy output is enough to run just the facility and will NOT CONTRIBUTE to the energy grid. Calling this WTE/incineration as an energy project is misleading.;

(4) Incineration is PROHIBITED under Sec. 20 of the Clean Air Act of 1999 (RA 8749)

(5) Zero waste WORKS if only materials recovery (not just segregation, but composting and recycling/upcycling) is given support by government and the private sector. This will require a minimal amount of PhP 1 Million per barangay (or less than 200 Million Pesos for all) to jumpstart an ESWM program and materials recovery facility.

Then we agreed to arrange at another time for a learning visit to the Tacunan composting facility and to the project in Mintal so that you and the Environment Committee team can meet our partners and see how they have managed to be part of waste diversion activities during the pandemic. Barangay Mintal alone through its PHINLA project has achieved a diversion of 1 ton per month (covering: 300 HH) with an income reaching nearly PhP 140,000.00 in a quarter, or a potential PhP 560,000.00 a year.

We had not made a full presentation on WTE incineration and zero waste initiatives because that was an initial meeting and we were also discussing other matters such as the upcycling of tarps that you used during your campaign. A “solution” that will only create more problems is NOT a SOLUTION. Poorly-fed WTE incinerators have been linked to high incidence of cancer cases in surrounding communities across the globe. The City Environment and Natural Resources (CENRO) officer had said in the CPD updating, that mixed wastes will be fed to the WTE incineration facility.

We would like to request for an opportunity to present, inviting other partners (including partner communities) experts and other practitioners on this matter.

Your new leadership in the Environment Committee is welcome and we can only hope that this ushers in a GENUINE GREEN AGENDA for Davao City that is:

– Responsive to our commitment to climate action (75% reduction/avoidance in carbon emissions, Nationally-Determined Contributions (NDC, 2015)

– Prioritizes the health of our children especially in a pandemic world;

– Consistent with the laws of our land (RA 9003 and RA 8749) and what the Constitution protects: “a balanced and healthful ecology for all”.

Please reconsider the 3.486 B PhP resolution and give priority to zero waste technology and ecowaste management that is the safe and environmentally-sound solution to the waste problem.

For a Sustainable Davao,
myLai Santos
Ecoteneo Director – Ateneo de Davao University

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