Environmentalist groups on Saturday praised a number of senatorial candidates, including reelectionists Nancy Binay, Grace Poe and Bam Aquino, for their strong positions against waste incineration.
In a survey conducted by the Ecowaste Coalition and No Burn Pilipinas, along with the Green Thumb Coalition, the senatorial aspirants were asked if they support or oppose proposals to repeal the incineration ban in the Clean Air Act (RA 8749) enacted in 1999, a landmark piece of legislation that was further strengthened by the passage of the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act (RA 9003) in 2000.
The candidates were also asked to reveal what legislative or oversight remedies they would introduce to ensure that RA 9003 and zero waste programs are mainstreamed across the country.
“We are encouraged and energized by the positions of some senatorial bets on keeping the incineration ban intact, which surely is a boost to our advocacy. We need many strong voices at the Senate, as well as in the House of Representatives, to preserve and uphold the waste incineration ban—an essential resource conservation and pollution prevention law—amid undying threat to have it repealed,” said Glenn Ymata, campaign manager of No Burn Pilipinas.
Ecowaste Coalition coordinator Aileen Lucero seconded Ymata. She said their groups, informal waste workers and affected communities are keeping a close watch on recurring attempts to rescind the ban on waste incineration and propagate ‘waste-to-energy’ incineration as a ‘solution’ to the country’s garbage woes.
“We intend to work with our pro-environment and pro-sustainability lawmakers to have the incineration ban effectively enforced,” said Lucero.
The responses of candidates Aquino, Binay and Poe, together with Neri Colmenares, Leody de Guzman, Florin Hilbay, Sonny Matula and Erin Tañada, according to the groups, provided a much-needed shot in the arm for the country’s zero waste movement.
“I approve of technologies that do not constitute incineration,” declared independent candidate Grace Poe, who added that she “fully supports policies that pursue energy diversification, focusing on renewables, geothermal, and natural gas, to eliminate the need for waste-to-energy facilities, reduce our dependence on coal and oil, and prevent or reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions.”
United Nationalist Alliance candidate Nancy Binay was equally uncompromising in her response. “The ban on incineration in the Clean Air Act should be retained and defended.”
Binay noted the responsibility of manufacturers in achieving zero waste.
“While we can put up stiffer penalties and strengthen oversight on local government units towards zero waste, what is missing is responsibilizing other key actors that are more responsible for waste generation—manufacturers and industry in general,” adding that “this is a track we want to study about waste reduction and eventual elimination.”
Liberal Party candidate Bam Aquino said “if reelected, I would oppose any proposal to lower environmental standards already provided by RA 9003.”
Fellow LP candidate Erin Tañada said “we need to implement proper waste segregation and full implementation of RA 9003 before we consider waste-to-energy incineration options.”
“I will oppose a repeal of the incineration ban,” said Makabayan candidate Neri Colmenares.
“I will strengthen the Act through legislation or oversight by including in the ban the use of municipal waste for energy generation
through waste burning and prohibition of using municipal waste or byproducts of its incineration as input to products such as cement and hollow blocks for general public use.” He added that “organic waste, which is part of municipal waste, may be safely used to generate clean and safe energy-- such as biogas production.”
Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino candidate Leody de Guzman said that “the incineration ban in the Clean Air Act should not be removed,” a decision unanimously adopted by the last National Congress of BMP.
Federation of Free Workers candidate Sonny Matula pointed out that “environmental laws should be synergized,” adding that “the incineration ban under the Clean Air Act and the Ecological Waste Management Act should prevail over the provisions under the Renewable Energy Law that inadvertently allowed waste-to-energy projects.”
Aksyon Demokratiko candidate Florin Hilbay also declared he will oppose proposals to repeal the incineration ban.
On the other hand, Gary Alejano of Magdalo Party-list clarified that “although I have initially filed a bill promoting waste incineration, bectause of its actual utility in addressing the waste problem, I am open to act on alternative solutions.”
He cited anaerobic digestion plant as a wise solution for biodegradable solid waste.
Chel Diokno of the Liberal Party, said that he “would keep an open mind on waste to energy (the burn kind) once we reach 80 to 90 percent segregation. Even then I would be skeptical but nevertheless open to the possibility.”