Bill seeking waste-to-energy management amid pandemic pushed in Senate

Robie de Guzman   •   April 15, 2021   •   179

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Thursday pushed for the passage of a measure that will allow the use of waste-to-energy (WTE) technology for the proper management of wastes in the country.

In a statement, Gatchalian said that the accumulation of household wastes as a result of the lockdowns, including medical wastes, has given rise to the need for proper waste management and other solid waste management treatment facilities, especially amid the coronavirus pandemic.

He added that the Department of Health (DOH) requires medical wastes to undergo waste treatment before being hauled to disposal facilities.

“Contrary to arguments that the operation of a WTE plant poses a threat to public health and the environment, such facility will require air pollution control systems to ensure emissions are within the standards of the Philippine Clean Air Act,” Gatchalian said.

“The bill establishing the framework for WTE facilities specifies this,” he added.

The senator was referring to Section 5 of Senate Bill 1789 or the proposed WTE Act, which he principally authored, stating that only waste treatment technologies that do not emit toxic and poisonous fumes into the environment and comply with relevant laws, rules, and regulations shall be allowed.

If a WTE facility is found to be non-compliant, it will be penalized and can be closed by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), he said.

The bill also provides environmental and health safeguards with the DENR and the DOH both playing a key role in the regulation of these facilities.

WTE is the process of generating energy from the treatment of waste through various technologies.

Gatchalian, who chairs the Senate energy committee, said that in the last two decades, the WTE industries in Europe, North America, and Asia have developed technologies that are currently among the cleanest sources of thermoelectric energy, the conversion of heat directly into electricity.

WTE plants in Italy, Spain, Japan, and Germany have also shown that emissions are highly controlled and have passed their stringent regulations, he pointed out.

“WTE can even be a leading contributor to the planned reduction of greenhouse gas emissions as it will reduce fossil fuel usage and increase energy production through the use of renewable sources,” he said.

The lawmaker also allayed concerns over WTE being costly and will not contribute to post COVID-19 recovery.

He said that under the proposed measure, it is the project proponent that will shoulder the expense in the construction and operation of the facility and not the local government units.

The processing fee paid by LGUs to these facilities will be subject to a fair, reasonable, and equitable standard, criteria, and guideline, he added.

The senator also debunked the idea that the country may resort to the importation of trash, emphasizing that section 14 of the bill clearly prohibits WTE facilities from using imported municipal solid waste as WTE feedstock for a WTE facility.

“Otherwise, these facilities will be penalized,” he said.

Gatchalian pushes waste-to-energy bill to solve PH problem on garbage

Robie de Guzman   •   December 18, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Wednesday renewed his call for the passage of a bill that would convert waste to energy to solve the country’s problem on garbage.

In pushing Senate Bill No. 363 or the Waste-to-Energy (WTE) Act, Gatchalian believes that its passage will encourage the development of new technologies in the treatment and disposal of solid waste.

He said the measure also supports the expansion of bioenergy to attain sustainable energy.

WTE refers to the energy recovered from waste, usually the conversion of non-recyclable waste materials into useable heat, electricity or fuel through a variety of processes.

“Meeting our growing power demand without sacrificing our environment and draining our natural resources need a delicate balancing act,” Gatchalian said in a statement.  

“With the passage of the WTE bill, the country will be able to maximize the energy we can produce from waste, be it in the form of electricity, fuel, or gas, and in the process address the waste problem,” he added.

Gatchalian, who chairs the Senate committee on energy, also believes that the WTE projects would benefit the country in terms of a more secure energy system while addressing the issue of the waste management system.

The lawmaker renewed his call for the passage of the WTE bill following Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu’s pronouncement that the country, particularly Metro Manila, is now in the middle of the garbage crisis.

Citing Cimatu, the senator said that Filipinos generate more waste during the holidays than any other time of the year.

Data from the National Solid Waste Management Commission showed that the yearly amount of the country’s projected waste generation is expected to increase from 14.66 metric tons in 2014 to 16.63 metric tons in 2020 and up to 20.51 metric tons in 2030.

Data also showed that Metro Manila’s waste generation continues to increase from 3.60 metric tons in 2014 to 4.44 metric tons in 2020 and 6.32 metric tons in 2030.

In 2014 alone, Metro Manila’s waste was 24.2 percent of the entire country’s waste. By 2030, it is projected to reach as high as 30.80 percent.

Gatchalian noted that the DENR has issued guidelines on the establishment and operation of WTE facilities, hoping that the country will be able to demonstrate in a pilot basis one solution to the waste problem without necessarily violating Republic Act 8749 or the Philippine Clean Air Act.

“Our ASEAN neighbors have started to invest in waste-to-power plants. Singapore, for instance, aims to reduce the average daily amount of waste by 30 percent by 2030. Indonesia is moving forward on plans for WTE plants as well as Thailand, Vietnam, and Malaysia,” he said.

“With the DENR’s issuance of the guidelines, the government may now be able to implement a 2016 resolution of the National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC) which allows the entry and operations of WTE projects,” he added.

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