THE SITUATION. The resolution authorizing Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama to sign a joint venture agreement (JVA) with Sky Energy Philippines Inc. to build and operate an incinerator, which will be used to converts the city's garbage into energy, is already considered approved.
The resolution was passed in the Sanggunian's March 2 session and was received by the office of the mayor last March 16. The mayor didn't return the resolution, approved or vetoed, in 10 days. Monday, March 28, Atty. Charisse Piramide, City Council secretariat chief, told Explainer her office still hasn't received the resolution. Under the law, it is deemed approved by inaction.
OPTIONS FOR THE MAYOR. Mayor Rama may sign the JVA or wait for the next term -- under his administration or his rival Margot Osmeña's -- to implement the P4.8-billion project.
He may have at least two reasons to put it off. One, Senate Bill #1789 that proposes to allow WTE process was still "pending second reading." Until the bill is passed and then signed into law by the president, building and operating an incinerator is considered illegal or legally dubious. Those who say there's no ban on WTEs focus on exceptions to fit their plans into. Given the opposition to WTE, the mayor may not want to add that as an issue against him during the campaign period.
The other reason is that the mayor may have no choice but to wait. There are conditions in the Sanggunian resolution (#15-1842-2022) to be met, before he can sign the JVA, and there are prerequisites for starting construction of the facility and its commercial operation.
BEYOND JUNE 30. Some conditions may not be fulfilled beyond June 30, when officials who win the May election will begin a fresh term as reelectionists or replacements.
The project proponent is given 365 days to complete papers and other requirements, most notably securing a six-hectare site within the City and environmental compliance and required permits from the national government and the LGU.
CONDITIONS GALORE. There are "conditions precedent" (a) to the effectivity of the contract, (b) to the start of construction, and (c) to the beginning of commercial transaction.
Most crucial, because they tend to address the core objection to the WTE process as allegedly harmful to the environment and public health, are the requirements that:
 The City secure a resolution from NWMC or National Waste Management Commission approving its solid waste management (SWM) plan;
 Sky Energy secure water permit, ECC or environmental compliance certificate and REOC or renewable energy operating contract.
Opposers may do more than protest; they may also watch that every condition is complied with by the City and Sky Energy before City Hall issues the notice to proceed.
WHAT RESOLUTION SKIPS is the issue raised by Councilor Alvin Dizon before the vote on it last March 9: namely, incineration is prohibited by the Clean Air Act or Republic Act #8749. But the resolution requires approval of agencies regulating waste management and other environment concerns although it does not mention the ban under existing law.
A red flag that Councilor Joel Garganera, main proponent of the WTE process, must have seen is that there would've been no need for the counterpart of the House measure, the pending Senate Bill #i879 if WTE were not banned by the Clean Air Act. The amendment seeks to lift the ban on incineration.
Can the Cebu City Government go around the ban with the approval of the JVA on WTE facility? Would agencies whose clearances are required under the resolution grant the go-ahead to Sky Energy and the City?
WHAT'S THE MONEY? The City seeks to solve its long-running garbage disposal problem, which was compounded by the closure of its own landfill transfer station and increasing reliance on private contractor Docast Construction. That firm's performance, one recalls, was questioned by then vice mayor/acting mayor Rama last June 2021. No answers until now.
Solid waste under the JVA, which may total below but not exceed 800 tons a day, will be delivered by the City to the WTE facility. Sky Energy shall collect P1,000 per ton tipping fee in the first three years, P1,100 in the fourth to sixth year, P1,300 in the seventh to ninth year, to be adjusted every three years thereafter. That, on top of the amount the City pays per ton to another contractor that hauls the garbage to Sky Energy's site. It will be more expensive, said Councilor Eugenio Gabuya Jr. Of course, retorted a proponent, "This is waste to energy."
Sky Energy shall sell and collect the revenues from the sale of electricity (3 percent city share) and its by-products (5 percent city share). The City also shares (5 percent) with income paid by other LGUs and other institutions, as tipping fees for their own business. Sky Energy does business not just with the City but also others who want their garbage disposed at the WTE facility. No math has been done yet to see if the expected revenues from the venture will cover the increase in hauling cost for the City.
EXPLAINER: Cebu City Council resolution on WTE incinerator deemed approved by the mayor. But JVA still to be signed, can't be signed until conditions are met. Sky Energy given 365 days to comply.
March 29, 2022
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