AMID criticism, particularly from environmentalists, the Department of Energy (DOE) has encouraged local government units (LGUs) to pursue waste-to-energy (WTE) technology, saying many Philippine investors are looking to invest in the innovation.

On Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2022, the agency held a forum at the Bai Hotel in Mandaue City, calling on all concerned government agencies represented there such as the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Department of Science and Technology, to work together to realize the great potential of WTE technology for the country.

WTE is a process that describes various technologies that convert non-recyclable waste into usable forms of energy, including heat, fuels and electricity.

Charisse Pascual, DOE’s science research specialist, said there are already 13 WTE facilities in the country; six are already operational with an installed capacity of 10.414 megawatts (MW) and could generate 650 metric tons (MT) per day in terms of refuse derived fuel (RDF) production.

The remaining seven are ongoing development and construction with a potential capacity of 41.559 MW and 30 MT per day of briquette production.

Briquette refers to a compressed block of coal dust or other combustible biomass material used for fuel or kindling to start a fire.

One of the WTE facilities in operation since 2012 is in the City of Naga, southern Cebu.

It has a production facility with a capacity of 300 metric tons per day that can generate 624 megawatts of biogas. The biogas plant is owned by the private sector. It sells its refuse derived fuel to cement manufacturing plants to co-fire with coal in their cement manufacturing process, said Pascual.

Pascual said they have continuously conducted information, education and communication campaigns to let the public know, particularly LGUs, that the country has policies and guidelines on the WTE initiative in addressing their solid waste management.

She said several investors are willing to take part in the initiative but are just waiting for LGUs to tap with proposal projects and feasibility studies for the projects’ implementation.

With their campaigns, she said several LGUs had already expressed interest in developing WTE projects, though she could not provide exact figures.

In his speech, DOE Undersecretary Giovanni Carlo Bacordo said the forum was organized to gather stakeholders and share information on the current developments for WTE technology, including the policies, programs, financing skills, and public-private initiatives for WTE projects.

WTE technology is covered under Republic Act 9153, or the Renewable Energy (RE) Act of 2008.

It mandates the DOE to encourage the adoption and development of WTE as a source of power as long as the projects comply with Republic Act 8749 or the Clean Air Act of 1999, and the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000.

Under the law, operating WTE facilities must have the following:

1. Waste delivery control, such as that it shall document and maintain records indicating the quantity in weight, source and type of source-segregated wastes to be processed, including the date and time received;

2. Appropriate storage facilities for source segregated wastes, in-process materials, and by-products from the WTE facility operation;

3. ln coordination with the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB), WTE facilities using the thermal process (whether burn or non-burn) must conduct sampling and analysis for dioxins and furans based on EMB Memorandum Circular 2007- 003 (Policy on Compliance and Permitting for Initial Facilities Relating to Air Quality).

In Cebu City, Mayor Michael Rama last September gave the notice to proceed to New Sky Energy Philippines Inc. for a P4.8 billion joint venture deal for a WTE facility to solve Cebu City’s perennial waste problem.

The WTE facility would accommodate 800 tons of garbage per day and use it to generate electricity for 40,000 households.

With the WTE facility, the City could dispense with the open dumpsite method, which is a violation of Philippine laws.

But several environmental advocates have called for the project’s scrapping, saying it could soon become a burden to the city and threaten people’s health, welfare, and sources of livelihood.