Construction of P2.5-billion waste-to-energy project in Davao to start in Q3

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 29 March) – The national government will start the construction of the waste-to-energy (WTE) project worth P2.5 billion in a 10-hectare property acquired by the City Government of Davao in Biao Escuela, Tugbok District by the third quarter this year, Vice Mayor Bernard Al-ag said on Friday.

Davao City Vice Mayor Bernard Al-ag. MindaNews photo by ANTONIO L. COLINA IV

Speaking during the Mindanao Business Forum at the Seda Abreeza Hotel here, Al-ag said the WTE project, which will be implemented through a grant from the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA), would be the city government’s “long-term solution” to address the solid waste problem.

He said the city government, the beneficiary of the WTE project of the national government, signed a memorandum of agreement with the Department of Finance last Tuesday for the funding of the project.

Al-ag added that the city government was veering away from the “landfill approach” in favor of the WTE technology to solve the solid waste problem in the city.

He said the nine-year-old seven-hectare sanitary landfill, located in New Carmen, Tugbok, has nearly reached its maximum capacity.

The local government had set aside P50 million to extend its lifespan to another five years, but it could not be usable beyond 2024, according to the vice mayor.

Asked about the concerns of the environmentalists on the possible health and environmental risks of the WTE project, Al-ag said that they would push through with the project for as long it does not violate the provisions of Republic Act 9003 or the Ecological Waste Management Act of 2000, and that they operate within the bounds of the RA 8749 or the Philippine Clean Air Act of 1999.

He said Davao’s sister city in Japan since 2018, Kitakyushu, would provide the technical support in the construction of the WTE, which will be completed in three to four years.

In a statement, No Burn Pilipinas, a coalition of environmental advocates in the Philippines, opposed the construction of the WTE project, claiming that there are “documented failures of WTE from economic and investment perspectives and these are mostly from advanced and rich countries such as UK, Germany, and Australia.”

The coalition said “emissions from incinerators contain heavy metals, dioxins and furans, which may be present in the waste gases, water or ash. Plastic and metals are the major source of the calorific value of the waste.”

“The combustion of plastics, like polyvinyl chloride (PVC), gives rise to these highly toxic pollutants,” it added.

It said WTE is the most expensive way to produce energy.

“It is 10 times costlier than coal fired power plants and 4 times the nuclear. The one being proposed in Quezon City is said to produce 1kW at P524 while solar energy can be harnessed for only P53 or even less. These are just some of the reasons why WTE incineration in other countries are being phased-out,” it added.

Mary Ann Fuertes, managing trustee of Interface Development Interventions, said the WTE project was worrisome, and called on the local government to hold massive consultations with the different stakeholders.

While it could not be denied that the city is confronted with woes on the solid waste management, Fuertes believed that a WTE project could only worsen the problem because people might think that it is “okay to produce waste” since the WTE needs garbage to generate energy.

“It runs counter to the values that we want to teach the people of Davao. We can endeavor to reduce our solid wastes by segregating properly our wastes, and as to the organic wastes, they can be brought to the composting site of every barangay. The problem now is that the city immediately resorts to technology to solve the problem,” she said. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)