Bicolano environmental advocates belonging to several art groups including members coming from the academe, media, environmental organizations, civil society organizations, and concerned individuals criticized the proposed bill on the legalization of garbage incineration under the guise of waste-to-energy (WTE) plants.
Citing that incineration is prohibited under the Clean Air Act, the groups said that if burning of waste becomes legal, the plastics industry and big waste management companies will continue with their polluting business as usual practices.
“As artists, we are concerned with the government’s absence or lack of creativity in handling our country’s waste management program. We are really baffled as to why legalize incineration when there’s potential harm to our health and the environment? Allowing waste-to-energy incineration would also be a burden to taxpayers due to the high costs of operating incinerator plants,” quipped Totep Perez, spokesperson for the Sorsogon Arts Council.
“Despite opposition from various groups and communities, our government is really pushing for this band-aid solution to address our waste problem. It should be noted that on November 24, 2020, the House of Representatives already approved the House Bill (HB) 7829, or the proposed Waste Treatment Technology Act. What we need is to enforce our key environmental laws—the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act and Philippine Clean Air and invest in efforts by our communities and local governments to implement zero waste programs,” said Geri Matthew Carretero, co-founder of Kurit-Lagting Art Collective.
Currently, the Philippines 18th Congress is also set to enact a legislation that would allow waste incineration as proposed in the Senate Bill 1789 otherwise known as the Waste-to-Energy Act authored by Senator Win Gatchalian. Gatchalian believes that tapping WTE technologies would lead to a more secure energy system, more sustainable power generation and waste management system.
“The energy that incinerators produce is very little and waste as feedstock is not renewable unlike wind, solar, or wave energy. It will just encourage people to produce more waste, and may allow the importation of waste as feedstock to continue operating these WTE facilities taking away jobs from waste pickers. Recycling, composting, and reuse create green jobs that help the local community in their livelihood, especially during this time of pandemic,” added Gilbert Catabian, supervisor of Bigaho Eco-Park in Prieto Diaz, Sorsogon.
“There are existing studies which show that even the “most advanced” waste-to-energy incineration would still release dioxins and furans that stay in the environment for hundreds of years. Senator Gatchalian should know that exposure to these dioxins and furans can cause serious illnesses such as cancer, birth defects, and reproductive disorders,” ended Gerald Jintalan, reporter for WOW Smile Radio Sorsogon and member of the Kurit-Lagting Art Collective.
The groups also said that more collective actions related to their advocacies on health and the environment will be launched these coming weeks to support the international #breakfreefromplastic movement especially on campaigns against waste-to-energy incineration and single-use plastics.