‘Biosphere is dead’

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Thursday, December 19, 2013

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO -- The City Government of San Fernando has recently rescinded its partnership agreement with Spectrum Blue Steel Corporation, the proponent of the waste-to-energy facility “Biosphere” in Barangay Lara here.

Mayor Edwin Santiago first disclosed of the now void memorandum of agreement on Tuesday during a Christmas gathering for media, when Society of Pampanga Columnists head Bong Lacson asked about the status of the “green energy” plant.

“We have decided to rescind the agreement on the Biosphere project because the proponent failed to comply with the provisions of the contract for the full operation of the supposed to be multi-million dollar waste to energy plant,” he said.

City Planning Officer and Acting City Administrator Engr. Fernando Limbitco, who admitted being tasked with the documentation of Biosphere, corroborated Santiago’s disclosure, stressing that the facility started sometime in 2006 is “really dead.”

“For so long we have been prodding them to comply with the provisions of the partnership agreement and the deliverables. Repeatedly, they failed, even as they vowed to complete the gasification plant in a year. The city government and our solid waste management simply got fed up, so we decided to rescind the contract. They kept on asking us for the land title and other documents when they did very little to comply with provisions of the memorandum of agreement,” he said.

Limbitco told Sun.Star Pampanga that he was “very hesitant and reluctant” to process the documents, because Spectrum Blue Steel officials “kept on promising to comply with the agreement” each time the city government prodded them on the requirements.”

“They put up the building and some equipment but it was not enough. They even erected electricity transmission posts at the facility supposedly to deliver the energy to nearby barangays. They showed a sample pellet produced from the equipment but that was it. And then there was nothing more in the following years except they kept saying other equipment to complete the facility was already in transit and being shipped. Gewa da ka ming mulala,” he said.

Limbitco said he just started working on the documents upon the insistence of then Mayor Oscar Rodriguez, to give it a chance. “Mayor Oca told me, baka naman totoo iyan eh wala naming mawawala sa atin. And let us also do our part in the agreement and ipakita natin na mahusay tayong kausap.”

But later, Rodriguez -- who was promised by Spectrum Blue Steel of the completion of the equipment, the drier in particular was already in Manila -- and former City Administrator Ferdinand Caylao, would express dismay over the ballyhooed Biosphere, saying “they were taken for a ride” by the proponents despite the city government’s trust over the project proponent.

Technology not working, modus

What was more surprising, Limbitco furthered, was the admission of Spectrum Blue Steel officials that the Biosphere technology was not working at all.

“In 2011, they admitted to the city government and the city’s solid waste management board that the Biosphere technology was not working here at all. We have reiterated that it was still incineration disguised as gasification and that it was impossible at that point to process the 600 tons per day of waste into energy given the incomplete facility. They insisted introducing another technology but we’ve had enough. It was bogus,” he said, which ultimately led to the rescinding of the agreement this year.

Limbitco alleged that the controversial Biosphere facility here was just being used by Spectrum Blue Steel for “marketing purposes.”

“Their modus is to show, for marketing purposes, that Biosphere is feasible. They then lure other contractors in particular, to invest and join them in the project. That is why they have funds. Supposedly that is their modus. In fact, some time ago the US FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) and our NBI (National Bureau of Investigation) agents came here to investigate the project and the proponent based on complaints by exasperated contractors and investors,” he added.

Now a transfer facility

Limbitco emphasized that the one hectare Biosphere plant in the 16-hectare property in Barangay Lara is secure and in possession of the city government.

“The property still belongs to and is secure with the city government. Spectrum Blue Steel wants to demolish the building and other structures there but it cannot be so under the agreement. They can the equipment but not other improvements the city made, too. The area now is a materials recovery facility and our main transfer station, not a dumpsite, for residuals to be taken to Kalangitan. Still, the city does not stop looking for ways to solve the garbage problem, even as the Biosphere project has been terminated,” concluded Limbitco.

Published in the Sun.Star Pampanga newspaper on December 20, 2013.

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