Davao City considers waste-to-energy project

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 1 March) – The city government here is contemplating on a having a waste-to-energy (WTE) project to improve waste management and prolong the lifespan of the sanitary landfill.

City Planning and Development Office (CPDO) head Ivan Cortez told reporters on Wednesday that they are evaluating the proposal of a Japanese company that develops a WTE project but they are open to proposals of other companies.

He said that the minimum volume requirement of wastes to be fed into the WTE facility will be around 600 metric tons to sustain its operation but the city’s daily wastage averages only at 500 MT.

Cortez also acknowledged the position of the environmentalists against any WTE project in the city, fearing it will even encourage the public to create more garbage to meet that minimum requirement.

He said the City Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) is now looking for two new areas in the city for sanitary landfills in the north and the south because the seven-hectare sanitary landfill in New Carmen, Tugbok, which was opened in 2010, has almost exceeded its capacity.

Cortez said that the new landfills will measure about 15 hectares each – 10 has. for the landfill alone and 5 has. for the WTE.

He said the landfills will be put in two locations to cut cost on trucking services.

Some environmentalists are objecting the construction of WTE projects because these produce the most toxic chemical substances that are detrimental to the environment and human health.

Dr. Jose Emmanuel, a former chief technical advisor on Global Environment Projects of the United Nations Development Programme, said in an environmental forum in December 2016 that “all thermal WTE technologies produce the most toxic substances known to science. I am a scientist and also an engineer.”

“In science, the most toxic chemical we know are a group of compounds known as dioxins. Dioxins are produced by all of these WTE technologies,” he said.

Waste-to-energy is the process of producing energy in the form of electricity and/or heat from the incineration of waste, he said.

Emmanuel said the Philippines does not have the capability yet to manage any WTE technology and to commission vigorous and expensive testing to monitor the level of the WTE plant is releasing into the environment.

“Dioxins are toxic even at very, very small concentrations. For example, if you put one drop of dioxin into a lake, that is enough to produce harmful effects on people who eat the fish in the lake,” he said.

Emmanuel said people who are exposed to dioxins are at risk of getting cancer, dysfunction of ovaries in women, reproductive disorders in men whose mothers have been exposed to dioxin, and reduced IQ level among the children.

“The moral issue is that if you release dioxin today, that dioxin will remain in our environment for at least 40 generations. So that means we are not only endangering ourselves and our children. We are endangering our great, great, great, great, and great grand children because it will take a long time for dioxin to disappear from the environment,” he warned.

Emmanuel urged the government to study the proposals of the more advanced countries, particularly Japan, in putting up a WTE plant here.

He said WTE companies are able to offer these technologies at a lower price because they reduce the pollution control mechanisms that will prevent the release of dioxin into the air. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)