A BILL outlining the regulatory regime for waste-to-energy facilities is encountering various hurdles because local governments, which are now responsible for managing solid waste, may not have the resources to pursue such projects.
“There are two constraints. From the hearing, I can see that this is a very complicated bill,” Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian, who proposed the bill, told reporters after a Senate hearing on the measure Tuesday.
“Complicated in a sense na ang (that) solid waste management is a devolved function to the local government. But… waste-to-energy (involves) high capital expenditure, meaning you need scale, kailangan mo malakihan (You need a big investment),” he added.
Mr. Gatchalian introduced Senate Bill No. 363 in July during the 18th Congress. The proposed legislation seeks to establish a national energy policy and framework for facilities using waste-to-energy (WTE) technologies.
He said reconciling the devolved function of solid waste management and the big investment needed to build a WTE facility is complicated as many local government units (LGU) do not produce enough waste; neither do they have the financial capability to finance a project to generate energy from waste.
Mr. Gatchalian earlier said that the passage of the bill would help solve the country’s perennial garbage problem. He had said that the measure will not only encourage the development of new technologies in the treatment and disposal of solid waste, but also supports the expansion of bioenergy to attain sustainable energy.
During the hearing, he asked the departments of Energy, Environment and Natural Resources, and Science and Technology to come up with a comprehensive study on waste-to-energy facilities.
“What we want is for these three departments to get together, come up with a preliminary study to look at the capacity, to look at the potential for energy, to look at the environmental concerns as raised by some sectors so that we will have some preliminary idea on how waste to energy can solve our solid waste issues,” he said.
He said WTE facilities, which convert non-recyclable waste materials into useable heat, electricity or fuel through a variety of processes, could be the solution as the three Rs — reuse, recycle and reduce — have proven to be a failure.
“Less than 30% of the barangays conduct three Rs, 70% tinatapon lang kahit saan saan (70% throw their garbage anywhere),” he said.
“On top of that, we have 330 open dumpsites. In the law that was passed 20 years ago, bawal na ang open dumpsites (open dumpsites are not allowed), but because of financial and logistical issues, meron pa tayong open dumpsites (we still have them),” he said.
Ahead of the bill’s passage, local government units such as Davao City and Puerto Princesa City have embarked on WTE projects.
Tristan Dwright P. Domingo, assistant administrator of Davao City, said the city government is trying to “lobby” the national government for P3 billion to help fund the project.
In 2018, the city secured a 5.013 billion yen, or P2.5 billion, grant from the Japanese government for the development of waste-to-energy facilities in Davao City. The project was meant to be an innovative example of sustainable waste management for other cities to emulate.
“Right now, as part of our commitment before we fully utilize the funds we have to have this final feasibility study,” he said in an interview after the Senate hearing.
He said the study, which is now focused on the financial aspect of the project, is scheduled to be completed next month.
“From there, we’ll decide whether to push through with the project or not. If the financial side tells us that it is not viable for us, then the grant would be returned to the Japanese government,” he said. — Victor V. Saulon