Puerto Princesa gov't won't junk waste-to-energy deal

PUERTO PRINCESA, Philippines – The Puerto Princesa City government said it will pursue the construction of a waste-to-energy (WTE) facility with developer AustWorks Corp. (AWC), despite the opposition from green groups who claimed it was illegal under Philippine laws.

City Administrator and Legal Officer, Atty. Arnel Pedrosa, maintains the planned facility would not pose harm to the environment, as was claimed by coalition No Burn Pilipinas (NBP).

"Our WTE project would be using thermal gasification. It's not incineration so it's not violating RA 9003 (Ecological Solid Waste Management Act)," he said in an interview over the weekend.

"It can accomodate all kinds of garbage or wastes except glass, so segregation under solid waste management law was rendered obsolete by this new technology," he added.

The country, through RA 9003 and RA 8749 or the Clean Air Act, bans waste incinerators, which use high temperature to burn waste and generate electricity.

As incinerators burn wastes, they are releasing harmful chemical dioxins in the environment, causing humans to develop different types of cancers and other health complications.

In 2016, the city government and Philippine-registered AWC signed a joint venture agreement to put up what would be the country’s first-ever WTE plant.

Under the deal, AWC committed to build and operate the WTE facility at the City Sanitary Landfill in Barangay Sta Lourdes, as well as provide garbage collection services for a minimum of 25 years.

"The facility will use state-of-the-art plasma ark gasification technology to process all the current solid waste from the city," AWC Director Greg Burton explained in a document he emailed to Palawan News.

Burton said the company ensured it is low risk commercially proven, non-incineration technology, in compliance with RA 9003. "'Gasification' does not come under 'incineration,'" he emphasized.

AWC promised to generate 5 megawatts from the city’s daily collection of 110 metric tons of solid and liquid waste, including hazardous waste such as chemical spills, used oils, used tires and hospital waste to name a few.

Burton said the facility could produce over 10 MW as the waste of the city increases.

City Administrator and Legal Officer Pedrosa, meanwhile, asserted the zero waste program being advanced by the coalition is just but "euphoric" in the present situation, adding that the city "must welcome new technology."

"No offense and I hate to say this, but zero waste is too good to be true and what is too good to be true is not true," he said.

Earlier this month, the Department of Energy, as per recommendation of its Renewable Energy Management Bureau, signed the operating contract for the power facility.

Pedrosa said "only courts can order the cancellation of the JVA, not a mere request" coming from the coalition.

Based on the agreement, AWC will start preparing of the Detailed Engineering and Design (DED) within 30 days from the signing of the DOE operating contract.

"The facility is planned to start construction later in 2018 after finalization of the DED with a forecasted operational date of late 2020," Burton said.

Once operational, the city government could get P20 million a year or 5% share from the annual gross revenue of the facility’s energy sales, also based on the deal. “It’s advantageous to us in terms of profitability,” Pedrosa said.

The city administrator said it would also make the city government save P40 million a year, which is its budget allocation for solid waste collection, as AWC will do the actual waste collection. – Rappler.com