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Green groups in QC hit council bid to lift incinerator ban

Quezon City-based environmentalists are up in arms over a local council resolution asking Congress to lift the ban on incinerators to pave the way for the setup of waste-to-energy (WTE) facilities in the city.

Green advocacy leaders and Quezon City residents Von Hernandez, Sonia Mendoza, Joey Papa and Shally Vitan—who represent different groups—denounced the councilors’ move as a “death blow” to waste prevention and recycling initiatives, pointing out that incineration is a “lazy man’s dangerous technology.”

They warned that lifting the ban by amending two laws—the Clean Air Act of 1999 and the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000—would lead to further ecological degradation.

Hernandez, EcoWaste Coalition president and Greenpeace Southeast Asia executive director, said the resolution was “a regressive and despicable move on the part of the city council. Not only does it betray the Quezon City government’s utter inability to implement real solutions already prescribed in law, it also shows that these politicians would not hesitate to burn and waste taxpayers’ money on polluting facilities.”

“What is being presented as a ‘quick fix’ is actually a scheme to increase the already stratospheric costs of waste management and disposal in Quezon City,” Hernandez said, pointing out that the public should ask who stands to benefit from the setup of a WTE facility.

Papa, president of Bangon Kalikasan Movement, stressed that incineration as a means to dispose of solid waste would only compete with recycling which is environmentally and economically beneficial.

“Instead of being fixated with this lazy man’s dangerous technology, our city officials should focus on optimizing recycling and providing incentives for households to separate their discards at source, to recycle and to compost,” he said.

These “burn proponents,” Papa said, would “negate the best practices of a good number of Quezon City residents,” like those in barangays that had succeeded in reducing their waste output through segregation and recycling.

Vitan said a quick-fix measure such as the WTE facility would only compound the city’s waste-management problem and add health hazards to the mix.

“What Quezon City needs to do is to aggressively reduce the garbage it produces by securing the cooperation of residents,” said Vitan, Asia-Pacific coordinator for Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives. “It may be long and slow but it is sustainable.”

Mother Earth Foundation president Sonia Mendoza reminded the city councilors of the danger of incinerators which, she said, emit cancer-causing dioxins.

“Incinerator peddlers would always say there’s ‘nothing to worry about, it’s zero emission.’ But even the most technologically advanced waste burners with expensive, high-tech emission-control devices still emit various contaminants, often failing emission standards.”

The council recently asked the House of Representatives, through former Quezon City mayor and now Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., to amend the two laws and lift the ban.

The councilors maintained that a WTE facility would be necessary in view of the city’s growing population and economic development which had increased solid waste generation and posed trash disposal problems.

Last year, the city government held exploratory talks with the group of businessman Manny V. Pangilinan for a possible joint venture, wherein the city would be supplying the trash while the MVP group would construct and run a WTE facility.

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