Environmental groups slam Aquino gov’t for dirty technologies policy

By INA ALLECO R. SILVERIO
Bulatlat.com

No way, no to using incinerators to solve Metro Manila’s growing garbage crisis.

The Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment is vehemently opposed to the proposal of Metro Manila Development Authority chairman Francis Tolentino and Environment Secretary Ramon Paje to use incinerators to address the worsening garbage collection and disposal problems plaguing the metropolis.

Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of Kalikasan PNE said promoting supposed “zero-emission” incinerators is “corporate greenwash aimed at creating profits for corrupt officials and big business. ” He said even as the landfill solution has proven inappropriate and ineffective, the Benigno Aquino III government is resorting to testing public opinion if the more dangerous and expensive incinerators will be acceptable.

According to the environmental group, incinerators emit voluminous amounts of dangerous toxic chemicals such as dioxins and heavy metals into the atmosphere, and have been banned under Republic Act No. 8749, or the Clean Air Act. It also said various scientific studies have proven that incinerators cause grave health problems in its surrounding communities. Cancer, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are just a few of the various complications correlated with the waste output of incinerators.

In the meantime, medical practitioners have said there are far safer alternative methods available for the processing of trash. A combination of such schemes as recycling, mechanical and biological treatment, aerobic digestion and plasma gasification are safer, produce more energy, and are cheaper in the long run when health costs are accounted for.

“Aside from the health and other social costs that will likely be shouldered by the public, incinerators are notoriously expensive,” said Bautista. He explained that incinerators require more energy to burn garbage, and the costs of operating them are inevitably much higher.

“Segregation policies in the Philippines are poorly implemented, if at all, and thus will result in higher costs of burning.”

Incinerators have recently been packaged as renewable energy sources, renamed as waste-to-energy or WTE schemes. Kalikasan-PNE noted that this is not the first instance that companies selling dirty technologies have enjoyed an influx in the Philippines, as the Aquino administration continues to promote coal-fired power plants.

“With over 12 pending coal-fired power plant projects and essentially an approval of WTE schemes, there is no more doubting Aquino’s dirty energy policy. We see this as a precedent for the wholesale entry of dirty technologies,” Bautista said.

Bautista warned the government against pushing through with its incinerator schemes.

“These proponents of dirty technology can be sure that massive opposition from environmental activists and concerned communities will meet this incinerator scheme head on,” he said.

Close toxic waste dumps

In a related development, another green group the Eco-Waste Coalition called for the closure of the country’s toxic waste dumps.

Late last August, a “garbage slide” in Irisan, Baguio City claimed six lives and left houses in disrepair. This prompted Eco-Waste Coalition and other groups to to demand the immediate closure and rehabilitation of more than 1,000 illegal, toxic dumpsites all over the country.

“The Irisan tragedy is as shocking as it is an unnecessary waste of life. According to RA 9003, Irisan dump and all other garbage dumpsites in the country, should have closed, making the local government of Baguio a blatant, continuing violator of the law as well as severely negligent of the immediate communities’ welfare and health,” said Romeo Hidalgo of the Task Force Dumps of the EcoWaste Coalition.

Hidalgo said there are thousands of other communities all over the country facing a similar disaster should local governments continue with their nonfeasance in closing down all these toxic dumps,” he added.

According to the group, the the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000 or Republic Act 9003 states that open dumpsites should have been closed in 2004, and controlled dumps in 2006.

According to the data of the National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC), however, there are still 790 open dumps and 382 controlled dumps operating in the country.

According to EcoWaste Coalition, the Irisan Tragedy could have been prevented had the DENR duly enforced RA 9003, and filed appropriate legal actions against Mayor Mauricio Domogan and other city officials for permitting continuous mixed waste dumping in the facility.

The group called on DENR’s Paje to immediately coordinate with the Department of Interior and Local Government and the Philippine National Police in order to close down all existing dumps and enforce appropriate actions against local officials who continuously defy the law.

Eco-friendly bags cover for environmental destruction

Farmers of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas have also exposed what it said is another fake “save-the -environment-scheme, this time by the giant business conglomerate led by tycoon Henry Sy.

The KMP said SM Shoemart and SM Supermalls’ campaign to promote the use so-called eco-friendly green bags is ironic as it aims to cover a far greater environmental destruction” in Hacienda Looc in Nasugbu, Batangas.

SM Supermalls recently launched the new line of its so-called eco-friendly bags at the SM Megamall Events Center. Liza Silerio, AVP and head of SM’s Environmental Committee, said they are promoting the use of eco-friendly bags to help reduce the use and consumption of plastics as customers shop in SM malls.

KMP secretary general Danilo Ramos, however, said SM wants to appear as an environmental champion when in fact it was conducting wide-scale bulldozing, demolition activities in Hacienda Looc.

The KMP leader was referring to the Hamilo Coast project, touted to be SM Land’s premier, sustainable leisure destination in Barangay Papaya in the town of Nasugbu, Batangas. Hamilo Coast is a 5,800 hectare property with 13 natural coves, 25 kilometers of pristine beachfront; forests, mountains, limestone cliffs, and rock formations. According to reports, more than 10,000 peasant families will be displaced by the project.

Hacienda Looc is composed of five villages in the boundary towns of Nasugbu, Batangas and Maragondon in Cavite with an area of 8,650 hectares, the place is endowed with rich natural resources more than enough to provide for its populace. Its plains are planted with over 1,700 hectares of rice, corn, vegetables and sugarcane. There are also fruit trees such as mango, banana, jackfruit and star apple, as well as wild rice and root crops.

“SM’s green bag campaign is only meant to cover up a far greater environmental destruction now happening in Hacienda Looc. This is hypocritical on the part of the SM group of companies.” Ramos said.

“The ongoing conversion of Hacienda Looc underscores the sham land reform in the country. Despite the coverage of the bogus CARP, farmer beneficiaries are now in the teeth of displacement due to SM Land’s Hamilo Coast project.”

Last week, the KMP and the Katipunan ng mga Samahang Magbubukid sa Timog Katagalugan (Kasama-TK) today staged a 20-vehicle caravan to Hacienda Looc dubbed “Kampuhang Bayan sa Hacienda Looc” in protest of what they called as renewed efforts by real estate companies to convert the more than 8,650 hectares into world-class eco-tourism project.

The lands are now being converted into a project called Royal Cliff, Harbor Town Golf and Country Club owned by two of the biggest real estate companies in the Philippines – Fil-Estate Lands and Manila South Coast Development Corporation.

According to reports, the Aquino government has already sold the whole hacienda, including the 5,218 hectares it has already awarded to farmers under the agrarian reform program. ()

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