Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu has ordered concerned offices of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to craft a new guideline for the use of environment-friendly technologies to address the country’s looming garbage crisis.
Environment Undersecretary for Policy, Planning, International Affairs and Foreign Projects Jonas R. Leones, said the guideline, in the form of a department administrative order (DAO), will provide a clear-cut policy on the use of incinerators, including no-burn, waste-to-energy (WTE) technologies or use of incinerators, anticipating the possible lifting of the ban under the Clean Air Act in the future.
Leones said to address the solid- waste management problem is one of the priority concerns, or one of the major thrusts of the DENR chief, with the closure of the Payatas dump, which is expected to aggravate the garbage situation, specially in Metro Manila.
“The Philippines produces 40,000 tons of garbage every day, and around 12,000 tons come from Metro Manila. We are currently coordinating with the MMDA [Metropolitan Manila Development Authority] to look for an alternative dumpsite,” he said.
Short of admitting the failure of the 3Rs; reuse, reduce and recycle strategy being promoted by the government under the Republic Act 9003, or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000, Leones said the DENR, under Cimatu’s watch, is now looking at appropriate and environment-friendly technologies to get rid of garbage heaps across the country.
There are still around 400 open dumps all over the country that needs to be shuttered as mandated by the garbage law.
Leones, also the designated spokesman of Cimatu, said the country’s top environment official is consistent with his position on the issue of solid-waste management.
“Under the Clean Air Act, incineration is banned. But guided by the Supreme Court decision on Jancom v. MMDA, wherein the Supreme Court clarified that not all incineration are banned for as long as the emission of that facility complies with the DENR standard on dioxins and furans,” Leones said.
“But even then, the policy of [the] secretary is not to violate or oppose what is provided for under the law,” he added.
Leones, however, is confident that the ban on the use of incinerator will eventually be lifted by Congress with the amendment of the Clean Air Act.
He said the use of incinerators is a proven technology. “Even Singapore has six incineration plants, yet it is the cleanest and greenest city in the world,” he added.
For now, he again pointed the DENR will not be adopting incinerator use in the strict sense of the word.
“What we are doing is waste-to-energy. These are no-burn technologies. At the same time, we destroy the garbage and generate power out of these wastes. That is the current direction,” he said.
“In anticipation of the amendment in the House, we are now crafting a guideline and we are consulting with various stakeholders to get inputs,” Leones added.
Leones said in the next two to three months, the DENR will come up with the draft guideline. “For now, while we implement RA 9003, maybe we can use new technologies to address the garbage problem,” he said.
He clarified though, that the DAO will prevail over the resolution of the National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC) supportingWTE. He added that, the NSWMC resolution is just a broad stroke that supports the use of new technologies.
The DAO, Leones added, will be the policy or guideline that will include the specific or detailed guideline for field offices of the DENR in case of permitting requirement.
The DAO, he added, will be specific about the technologies to be allowed, as well as the step-by-step process in seeking permit and the requirements for the establishment of WTE technologies.
Cimatu was also tasked by President Duterte to address the environmental problems besetting Boracay Island, the county’s top tourist destination, in Malay, Aklan.
Last week, Cimatu has ordered to limit the number of tourists being allowed in El Nido, another top tourist destination in Palawan Province, because of reports that the number of visitors in the area has exceeded its carrying capacity.
El Nido, which showcases sustainable ecotourism, is beset by the same problems confronting Boracay, namely water pollution, solid waste management, and unchecked construction of structures near the shores that are connected to sewage lines for wastewater treatment.