Cebu City WTE deals with ‘risk’ to health and environment, experts say

Cebu City WTE deals with a ‘risk’ to health, environment, experts say. (File photo)

THE proposed waste-to-energy (WTE) project that the Cebu City government plans to undertake could become detrimental not only to the environment but also to the health of the city’s population.

So said environmental experts at the 2022 CSO Waste Summit, a multi-sector forum hosted by the Philippine Earth Justice Center and other pro-environment groups in the city at the main campus of the University of Cebu on Tuesday, April 5, 2022.

The forum aimed to address the effects of the proposed WTE deal to be signed by the Cebu City Government and New Sky Energy Philippines Inc.

Dr. Jorge Emmanuel, assistant professor of environmental science and engineering at Silliman University in Negros Oriental and former chief technical adviser on global environmental projects for the United Nations Development Programme, said that if the government of the city ​​were to set up a WTE installation, it could pose a threat to the environment and people.

Emmanuel said WTE incinerators emit extremely toxic chemicals called dioxins and furans.

Inhaling dioxins and furans leads to an increased risk of tumors, cancers, asthma and other deadly diseases, Emmanuel added.

Emmanuel said that these incineration by-products do not dissipate easily because they remain in the environment for a very long time.

Dioxins and furans could stay in the environment for about 500 years and affect 10 to 40 generations, he added.

Emmanuel added that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, specifically its Office of Environmental Management, is unable to conduct monitoring of dioxins, furans and other toxins which is essential for the protection of public health. and the environment.

“You cannot test for dioxins through ambient sampling. The only way to test for dioxins is through chimney sampling, yet the DOST (Department of Science and Technology) has approved this technology. I would really like to see the ETV (Environmental Technology Verification) details for the New Sky,” he added.

From a legal point of view, the proposed WTE project is also not authorized by the laws of the country.

Attorney Nikka Oquias of the Philippine Earth Justice Center, a Cebu-based pro-environmental advocate, said building an incineration facility to be used for a WTE facility is prohibited under Republic law. 8749 or the Clean Air Act of 1999.

Oquias also questioned the accuracy and timeliness of data on the quantity and quality of waste composition in Cebu City and the lack of public hearing for the project.

Cebu City councilors Nestor Archival and Alvin Dizon, who were among those who opposed the project, were there to reiterate their opposition to the proposed deal with WTE.

For their part, the representatives of the mayor of the city of Cebu, Michael Rama, present at the forum assured that the project was respectful of the environment.

Rama, who was represented by Cebu City Public Information Officer Cerwin Eviota, said the project had undergone sufficient feasibility study, including studying its possible impact on the environment. and the health of the city.

Last month, Cebu City Council voted to empower Rama to enter into a joint venture agreement with New Sky Energy Philippines Inc. to establish a WTE facility in the city.

Rama said the WTE facility would be built at no cost to the city.

But opposition advisers questioned why the approval was given in the absence of a feasibility study from the project developer, including identifying the location of the facility, among other things.

On Saturday, April 2, Majority Leader and Cebu City Councilor Raymond Alvin Garcia announced that the WTE deal was now ready for a Swiss challenge, opening the proposal up to a third-party company that can challenge the original developer.