Groups ask JICA to withdraw support for Davao’s Waste-to-Energy project

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 15 January) — Environmental groups and local residents have asked the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) to withdraw its support for the waste-to-energy (WTE) project of the local government of Davao.

Lawyer Mark Peñalver, executive director of the Interfacing Development Interventions for Sustainability (IDIS), said on Sunday that the incinerator, which emits highly toxic and carcinogenic substance, will affect residents of 20 barangays in the city.

He said those barangays include Mintal, Santo Niño, Catalunan Grande, Langub, Waan, Callawa, Riverside, Balengaeng, Tacunan, Biao Guianga, Angalan, Los Amigos, Talandang, New Valencia, New Carmen, Matina Biao, Tagakpan, Ula, Tugbok, and Biao Escuela.

Davao City map courtesy of Google

He added around 30 participants, among them residents who would be affected by project, joined thePeople’s Forum on Agriculture and Incineration held last January 9 at The Big House Davao where they made the call for JICA not to pursue the project.

The forum was organized by the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) Asia Pacific, Ecowaste Coalition, and IDIS in partnership with Ecoteneo, Masipag Mindanao, Panalipdan Youth-Davao, and Saligan-Mindanaw.

Participants in the forum included farmers and residents of the city’s Third District. 

The local government plans to build a WTE project on a 10-hectare property in Biao Escuela, Tugbok District.

The project site of the proposed WTE facility is located 2.2 kilometers away from Biao Escuela Elementary School and the nearby Biao National High School and 550 meters from a relocation site of displaced families in Catalunan Grande, according to Peñalver.

On August 23, 2022, the City Council of Davao asked President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to provide a counterpart fund worth P3.486 billion for the construction of the WTE facility in the city. 

In a resolution authored by Davao City’s 1st District Councilor Tek Ocampo, the Sangguniang Panlungsod said the country should seize the opportunities offered by the Japanese government to avail of the technical and financial assistance to develop sustainable ways of managing solid waste.

Ocampo, a former Davao-based broadcast journalist, said the Japanese government expressed the intention in 2018 to donate 5.013-billion yen,  equivalent to around P2.052 billion, to partially fund the project.

In a release issued on Sunday, various groups are wary of the establishment of WTE facility due to its potential hazards to the health of the local residents and to Davao’s rich biodiversity, particularly the fragile watersheds. 

The environmental advocates point out that the wastes generated in the city are 50-percent organic, which cannot be utilized to fuel a WTE technology. 

The city generates around 600 to 700 tons of waste daily, according to the City Environment and Natural Resources Office.

Peñalver added that a WTE facility is a “dangerous way” of generating power as it is not a renewable energy source and produces more greenhouse gases than coal. 

“So not only is incineration a bad choice for the environment, but it’s also not a wise choice from a climate perspective,” he added. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)