THE controversial waste-to-energy (WTE) deal in Cebu City has been given the green light to proceed after Mayor Michael Rama signed the notice of award to New Sky Energy Philippines Inc. Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022.

The private firm will invest P4.8 billion in the construction of a facility that can accommodate 800 tons of garbage per day and use it to generate electricity.

But an environmental advocacy group has slammed the city government’s move, saying that signing the deal would trigger questions on the legality of the contract.

Councilor Joel Garganera, chairman of the committee on environment, denounced the claims of opposing groups that a WTE project can have detrimental effects on the planet.

“This is a democratic country, and they are welcome to espouse their beliefs and understanding of this particular technology. We have just shown you that Singapore has five, and Japan has a thousand WTE facilities. So are you saying they are polluting their own country?” said Garganera.

Garganera said the facility is capable of providing electricity to 40,000 households and that this electricity can be sold to electric utility providers.

The WTE facility will burn the collected garbage to produce pressurized steam that will be used to power electric generators.

Razilee Ligaray, the in-house legal counsel of New Sky Energy, said they are still identifying the area for the WTE facility and are considering Barangays Agsungot, Guba, Panutan, Toong and Pardo.

Since the notice to award has been signed, Ligaray said the company has one year to acquire the land and secure all the permits for the project. After a year, the company will spend another two years on the construction of the infrastructure, thus making the WTE facility operational in 2025.

Environmental effect

Joselito Vasquez, Visayas and Mindanao coordinator of Piglas Pilipinas, said in a separate interview that incinerating garbage is a blatant violation of Republic Act 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000.

Vasquez said they will challenge the application of the firm for an environmental compliance certificate from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

Vasquez also said they will ask for the full copy of the joint venture agreement (JVA) and have their legal team see the possibility of challenging the deal before the court.

However, Ligaray said their facility will be compliant with all environmental laws in the country and has passed the standards of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).

The DOST has issued an environmental technology verification report to their company, she added.

Ligaray said the DOST inspected a plant of New Sky Energy in China and found that the technology used by the company is compliant with the limits and standards set by Philippine laws.

Lawyer Collin Rosell, secretary to the mayor, said the role of the city government in this joint venture is to deliver the garbage collected by the city to the facility.

He said the WTE facility is the solution to the open dumpsite method being used by the city, which is a violation of Philippine laws.

Under the agreement, the City will pay the company a tipping fee of P1,000 per ton of waste in the first three years of operation; P1,150 per ton from the fourth to the sixth year, and P1,300 per ton from the seventh to the ninth year.

The city’s daily collection of garbage is only around 400 tons, but under the JVA, there is no minimum requirement of garbage that the City must hand over to the facility, said Rosell.

Rosell further said the city government could earn up to P24 million annually as its share of the proceeds from the electrical power that will be generated.

According to Garganera, the City will also have its share of the tipping fee that other local government units will pay if they will also use the WTE facility.