THE House Committee on Ecology chaired by Rep. Estrellita Suansing of the First District of Nueva Ecija has approved the creation of a technical working group (TWG) out to amend the Clean Air Act of 1999 and the Solid Waste Management Act of 2000, which were found to be ineffective.
The TWG, to be headed by Rep. Carlos Cojuangco of the First District of Tarlac, will tackle a proposal by Rep. Carlito Marquez of the Lone District of Aklan under House Bill (HB) 2286 designed to repeal Section 20 of the Clean Air Act and some other provisions of the Solid Waste Management Act.
In particular, the measure sought to address the urgent solid-waste issues in the country that lead to flooding, erosion, landslides, as well as other dangers on landfills and dumpsites affecting people living near them.
The bill also intended to clarify the claim that waste incineration is harmful to the environment, and seeks to set up waste-to-energy (WTE) facilities in the country.
Marquez cited the need for a new definition to incineration beyond “simple burning”. Incineration, under the bill, is characterized as a “solid-waste treatment process employing high-temperature combustion equipment of not less than 800 degrees Celsius, for the conversion of solid-waste energy for heat and electricity production”.
At a committee meeting, resource speakers from non-governmental organizations voiced their concern over emission of toxic or potentially toxic substances, such as dioxins, and the sustainability of waste incineration.
A representative of the Healthcare Without Harm has expressed concern that incineration of medical waste increases operational costs of medical facilities and that emissions may pose a threat to public health.
Another from the Eco-waste Coalition cautioned that HB 2286 runs against the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, while Mother Earth Foundation championed zero-waste models as an alternative to managing waste.
Citing figures from Japan and South Korea, Marquez said countries that employ WTE incineration have reported dioxin levels below the international standard.
He argued that the average lifespan in these countries have been unaffected by WTE programs, adding that the measure does not undercut zero-waste models.
“It is in my belief that if you ban incineration, you are also banning the new, modern technology of converting waste into energy,” Marquez said.
Government agencies that expressed their support for the bill include the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, National Solid Waste Management, Quezon City Environmental Protection and Waste Management Department and Department of Science and Technology.
The Climate Change Commission, however, decided not to comment on the bill until a study on emissions has been done.
Industry associations were divided in their support for the bill. The Federation of Philippine Industries and the Pollution Control Association of the Philippines Inc. endorsed the proposal, though the latter believes that the public needs further education on how to efficiently utilize energy produced by WTE programs.
Group Novotech Automation Corporation asserted that it does not need waste incineration, as it has nonburn technologies to address waste management.
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines said it has no official position on the bill, though it noted that WTE has continued to grow steadily in Canada.
Some observers who attended the meeting claimed that the existing Clean Air Act of 1999 and the Solid Waste Management Act of 2000 are obsolete laws requiring updating to answer the present realities in the country’s ecological needs.
The air pollution alone in the metropolis has turned from bad to worse, and this is compounded not only by a lack of vigorous implementation of the law but by modern technological equipment to reduce pollution, the observers added.
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