STATEMENT | Paglaum Ecology Network (PEN) on Davao City’s Waste-to-Energy (WTE) Incinerator Project

Aug. 25, 2022 file photo by Medel V. Hernani

Statement of the Paglaum Ecology Network (PEN) regarding the resolution filed by Councilor Tek Ocampo asking President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. to allocate a counterpart funding to construct the proposed Waste-to-Energy (WTE) facility in Davao City.

We are addressing this statement to the Honorable Temujin B. (Tek) Ocampo, Chairperson of the Committee on the Environment of Davao City’s LGU as well as all the other members of the Sangguniang Panlungsod of Davao City. This is in response to Councilor Ocampo’s filing of a resolution on August 24, 2022, requesting President Bongbong Marcos Jr. to allocate a counterpart funding of P3.486 billion to construct the proposed Waste-to-Energy (WTE) incinerator project, which is meant to address the city’s waste problem.

We are a group of very concerned citizens of the city who are affiliated with religious congregations, parishes, Catholic schools, youth groups, and NGOs who are members of the Paglaum Ecology Network (PEN). Our ecological advocacy and engagements have been inspired by our Christian faith and we are convinced that one of the ways we can manifest our faith commitment is through engagement in ecological issues and concrete action to help protect the environment.

We continue to be inspired by the exhortations of Pope Francis and our bishops. On a number of occasions, Pope Francis has referred to the culture of waste and how this culture has led to waste management problems. In his 2015 encyclical, Laudato Si, he proposed that we should today be “engaged in a new dialogue on how we are shaping the future of our planet and that the work of environmental protection, authentically understood and practiced, is a Catholic duty.” This is because “the Earth, our home, seems to turn more and more into a huge garbage dump”, which “is intimately linked to the culture of waste, affecting so much the human beings left behind when the things turn quickly into trash.”

On the other hand, the 2021 statement of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) indicated that “we continue to suffer an increasingly warming world and ailing biosphere triggered by exploitative practices that benefit the wealthy few but cause poverty and hunger to many…The proposed measures and policies for addressing the impacts of this crisis should always place social and ecological justice at the forefront. As one of the most vulnerable nations in this era of global emergency, the Philippines has the moral imperative of pursuing the most sustainable development pathway possible for the sake of current and future generations, ensuring that the voices of everyone are accounted for.”

We are hoping that our city government officials would listen to our voices in view of what we believe is the right path to take in dealing with the problem of waste management. We are not in agreement with you, Sir Ocampo, in what you are quoted in the media, where you stated: “One technology utilized worldwide is waste-to-energy or WTE which does not only significantly reduce the volume of waste being dumped in the sanitary landfill but also contribute and provide one of the most important resources, which is energy.”

Like many other institutions and groups who have issued their own statements on this issue, we believe that the WTE incinerator project is NOT the correct solution to an urgent problem we are facing now and which could only worsen in the years to come. Various reasons have already been cited including the following: WTE has been proven to cause health and environmental problems based on experiences in a number of countries, it contributes to climate change (as it uses fossil-based plastics as feedstock for electricity production), it involves huge investments which then help increase the foreign debt, threatens the job security of waste workers, is in clear violation of some existing environmental laws, we are handicapped in dealing with emissions (of dioxin, furan and other toxic by-products) that involve highly technical expertise which we do not possess and there has been very little community consultation before this project was approved despite the fact that an environmental compliance certificate (ECC) had not been secured. Besides all these, it can promote further wasteful consumerism, as the citizens are made to believe that it is okay to produce waste since the WTE needs garbage to generate energy.

It is not as if our only choice is to push for this WTE project. But the fact is that there are other alternatives including pushing the city government to pursue the Zero Waste program, which emphasizes the reduction of waste and diverting of waste away from the landfill or incinerator through the banning of single-use plastics, implementing segregation at the source, and supporting community initiatives for re-using, composting, and recycling. We already have an ordinance that bans single-use plastics; what is needed is to strengthen the LGU’s resolve to implement the ordinance. Building the capacity of barangays and uplifting waste workers’ commitment and capacities can also be a means to this end.

Thus, we would really ask of you, dear Ladies and Gentlemen of our SP to:

1. Cancel all waste-to-energy (WTE) incineration projects and reject WTE proposals from both foreign and local investors.

2. Remove WTE incineration from the 10-Year Solid Waste Management Plan.

3. Invest in genuine Zero Waste solutions.

As men and women of faith – whether Christian or other faith tradition – we hope you share with us the dream of making sure we contribute to protecting Mother Earth for the sake of our children and their children’s children. As the popular saying goes: “We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.”

Members of the Paglaum Ecology Network
Davao City

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