Environment News

Environmentalist demand immediate cancellation of contract to build illegal Waste-to-Energy facility in Palawan

By Nelson Flores,  Ll.B., MSCK

Members of NGO coalition No Burn Pilipinas today questioned the legality of the newly signed “waste-to-energy” (WTE) facility deal in Palawan. Image © EcoWaste Coalition

AN environmentalist group called on the Department of Energy and the Puerto Princesa City government to immediately rescind the patently unlawful PhP2.1 billion “waste-to-energy” deal it entered into with a questionable energy company.

The Non-governmental Organization Coalition No Burn Pilipinas, in a press release, said the DoE and Puerto Princesa’s “waste-to-energy” (WTE) facility deal with Austworks Corp. is unlawful because waste incineration is banned under Philippine law. Moreover, the energy produced by the facility will be minuscule and claims that the facility will pay for itself from the energy generated is false. (Read More: http://beyonddeadlines.com/2016/07/26/3994/)

The group also urged the DoE, the Puerto Princesa City government and the Palawan provincial government to make sure they are not being duped as WTE scams abound worldwide, and because until now there are no commercially operating thermal gasification WTE incinerators anywhere in the world.

Aside from the deal’s illegality, No Burn Pilipinas said it is doubtful that the facility will actually operate successfully even if it is constructed as it also noted that Austworks Corp. has no known record for building similar facilities anywhere in the world.

A similar view is held by the EcoWaste Coalition, an environment and public health watchdog.

“The planned ‘waste-to-energy’ incinerator in Puerto Princesa is patently illegal under Philippine law,” said EcoWaste Coalition WTE Campaigner Ruel Cabili.

“It is a clear violation of the ban on incineration enshrined in the Clean Air Act. It also contravenes the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act which the government should be strengthening. Pursuing ‘waste-to-energy’ incineration undermines segregation, recycling and reduction efforts – the very approaches which the government should be supporting,” he said.

For its part, the Palawan chapter of the Environmental Legal Assistance Center (ELAC), noted that Puerto Princesa’s current sanitary landfill was intended to evolve into a Zero Waste management program, as provided in the Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) issued to the city government.

“The pursuit of WTE would result to a violation of the ECC,” said ELAC Palawan representative Kat Leuch.

“We hope that the Puerto Princesa City government can still reconsider its planned incineration project and prioritize Zero Waste management in its development masterplan. Being a hall of fame awardee in the ‘Clean and Green Program’ of the Philippine government, we expect the city government to sustain its environmental protection efforts,” she added.

The groups are reacting to a recent report concerning the contract signing between the DoE, Puerto Princesa City and Austworks Corp., the facility provider for the construction of a so-called “waste-to-energy” plant.

As reported, under the deal, Austworks will build a purported “thermal gasification” WTE incinerator in the city’s Sta. Lourdes Sanitary Landfill, as well as well as provide garbage collection services. The WTE plant will supposedly generate 5.5 megawatts of electricity from the city’s 110 metric tons per day of waste.

As this developed, No Burn Pilipinas and its partners are also questioned the DoE’s promotion of WTE incineration. (Read More: http://beyonddeadlines.com/2017/10/21/ph-environmentalist-lambasted-anti-environment-proposals-of-members-of-the-congress/)

“Waste incineration is the most expensive and inefficient way to produce electricity, with construction costing twice that of coal-fired power plants and 60% more than nuclear plants, and operations costing ten times more than coal, and four times more than nuclear,” said Glenn Ymata of Philippine Movement for Climate Justice.

“WTE incineration is bad for the climate and is not renewable energy; it takes investments away from real energy solutions such as wind and solar.”

At the same time, the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) explained that gasification plants are not recommended for developing countries because not only they are complex, they are expensive.

“Gasification plants are some of the most complex and expensive incinerators, and are not recommended as suitable waste treatment facilities in developing countries. In fact, no commercial-scale gasification plant meant for the treatment of municipal solid waste exists anywhere in the world,” said GAIA Clean Energy Campaigner Lea Guerrero.

“Gasification’s history of technical challenges and failures has led to shut downs in operation which have left some cities and taxpayers in debt, paying for prohibitively expensive facilities that never worked.”

Philippine environmental groups are one in saying that cities and municipalities should be extremely wary of incinerator companies selling billion peso “quick fix” incinerators. The case of Palawan is not the first WTE deal that seems too good to be true.

In 2011, Angeles City was also lured into investing in a USD 63 million WTE facility that never materialized. Five years earlier, the City of San Fernando in Pampanga entered into a contract for a gasification facility that was started but never completed. However, shortly after the failure of the gasification plant, the City of San Fernando, chose to instead pursue Zero Waste – and succeeded.

In partnership with Mother Earth Foundation, the city was able to drastically reduce the volume of municipal waste in just six months. In the past, the city brought almost 90% of its waste to landfills. In the last four years with a Zero Waste program which includes segregation at source and composting of organics, this figure was reduced to 30%, resulting to huge savings for the city.

“Zero Waste is still the best approach for the sustainable management of discards,” said Sonia Mendoza of Mother Earth Foundation.

“Waste is a complex problem that can’t be solved by a machine that burns trash and merely converts solid waste to toxic air pollution. The government should support Zero Waste approaches instead of partnering with incinerator companies that sell false solutions to cities and municipalities.

Nelson Flores, J.D., MSCK
A former reporter of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Manila Standard Today, and a regular columnist of the Metro Manila based daily tabloid newspaper Hataw; Nelson Flores is also the former Senior Associate Editor of the Houston based Fil-Am Press and former anchor of dzXL and dzRJ's weekend talk show Usaping Bayan. Mr. Flores has a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Law degrees from the University of Santo Tomas and Adamson University and a holder of a study certificate from the Diocesan House of Studies, Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI). He is a Freemason and member of Reagan Lodge 1037 in Houston Heights under the jurisdiction of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Texas and a member of the Missionary Society of Christ the King (MSCK).

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