Taking a last look at Herhof

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By Jun Ledesma

Sunbursts

Thursday, February 9, 2012


I HOPE the enthusiasm of the City Government to avail of municipal or residual waste technology will not wane and die with the unceremonious withdrawal of Herhof of Germany's nebulous offer to set-up a multi-billion-peso complex that promises to process our garbage into something of value.

In my first article that came on the heels of the offer of Herhof, I already had some reservations. There were items in the internet that hazily touch on the viability of the company. When a certain Mike Jimenez came to town and sought audience with the city leadership, I got word that he refused to be interviewed.

Nevertheless, the technology appeared to be interesting. I have seen a video footage done by National Geographic on how wastes are being collected, segregated, and processed into several by-products. I thought that the move of the City Council to have a closer look at the processing plants in Germany maybe worth the money.

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But even Vice Mayor Rody Duterte had a hunch about the fantabulous offer. (Imagine building a billion dollar project free of charge to the city!) He made a terse announcement that if a probe team be sent to Germany, let it be to the account of the project proponent.

At that stage, nobody was talking that Herhof, which was originally owned by a German national named Hermann Hofman, had been sold to Helector a Greek Company. Hofman was but a simple road and sewer system contractor, which might be classified under category C. In addition to that, he operates a sand and gravel quarry.

With the facilities he had, he thought of processing biodegradable wastes, and for this he made concrete boxes where he stored the refuse and then processed this to compost.

He succeeded in that except that the foul odor emitted from the concrete receptacles was simply obnoxious. Confronted with complaints, he redesigned his simple "technology" by coming out with inexpensive bio-filter systems also from waste. He did away with the odor and succeeded in composting the bio-waste in less than eight days.

Soon Herhof-Umwelttechnik, became a byword not only in Germany but in the neighboring countries. At one time he had 50 plants to construct. Herman later partnered with a named waste expert in Germany and further develop his technology into a modular system and called it Mechanical Biological Treatment of processing waste.

His success threatened operators of incinerators but the government accepted his technology. With the cognizance he went on a construction binge which ironically resulted in serious financial trouble. Lacking in capital, he opened his company for a fresh equity from Treasury Holdings but even this did not help as midstream it withdrew from Herhof.

In no time at all Herhof-Umwelttechnik became insolvent and forced to sell to Helector, which is a subsidiary of a Greek firm named Ellaktor. Ellaktor is known to be the biggest construction firm in Greece. Helector, for its part, decided to retain the name Herhof but dropped "Umwelttechnik".

The acquisition shocked the engineers and technical men of Hermann Hofman. They decided to regroup and together put up the company called Waste Tech GmbH. The new consortium quickly gained prominence in Germany and the rest of Europe and in fact set up Singapore's waste processing plant.

As to Herhof GmbH and Helector, they are still in it and even have a project for waste treatment in Russia. They also acquired a small MTB plant in Spain but it is all there is to it.

The other significant information gathered by this writer is that Germany observes a very strict segregation of waste; a practice that makes segregation and recycling of whatever waste easy.

So what really happened why Herhof-Helector suddenly disappeared from the Davao scene? Yours truly can only speculate and would rather just raise the question: Was that certain Michael Jimenez truly an agent of Herhof-Helector? On whether or not the mechanical biological treatment of waste treatment be availed of by Davao City? I think it should but as Mayor Inday Sara Duterte had said, "We will look and evaluate other offers."

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on February 10, 2012.

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