Mayor open to comments on waste-to-energy project

Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas and lone district Rep. Julienne Baronda meet with officials of Metro Pacific Water in January 2023 to discuss some projects, including the proposed waste-to-energy facility. Also in photo are Iloilo City Councilor Miguel Treñas, Executive Assistant for Utilities Francis Cruz, Metro Pacific Water Chief Operating Officer Maida Bruce, MPW Assistant Vice-President for Business Development Jonet Sanalilla and MPW Associate Legal Counsel Carlos Pagdanganan.

By Joseph B.A. Marzan

Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas said the city government continues to study proposals for a waste-to-energy (WTE) facility, but said he was open to counter-proposals from environmental groups who may criticize these kinds of projects.

In a statement, Treñas said they are seriously evaluating Metro Pacific Water’s (MPW) August 2022 proposal to build a WTE facility.

The evaluation of this WTE facility will also pave the way for other partnership projects being considered by the city, including land reclamation along the Iloilo Strait, as well as a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system which has been said to increase intra-city connectivity.

“We are presently evaluating a [WTE] proposal submitted by [MPW]. Once we finalize this WTE, we will study the proposed reclamation and the BRT projects submitted to us by interested parties,” Treñas said.

MPW is the lead investor for all water and wastewater infrastructure projects of the Manny V. Pangilinan-led Metro Pacific Investments Corp. (MPIC) outside Metro Manila and across Asia.

MPW already has a joint venture consortium with Metro Iloilo Water District in Metro Pacific Iloilo Water (MPIW), which provides water supply to the city and its neighboring towns in Iloilo province.

As to possible environmental concerns, the mayor cited the unsustainability of the landfill at Barangay Calajunan in Mandurriao district as the primary driving factor for the heavy consideration for the WTE plant.

He added that residents were also complaining about the smell coming from the area, which is already becoming a social issue.

But he emphasized that he was welcome to sit down with environmentalists “or any person who will tell [him] there is a better way.”

“[T]he sanitary landfill is no longer sustainable. It is highly subsidized. And once it is full, we need to look for another place. All concerns of environmental groups will be considered. I invite them to my office anytime,” the mayor told the media.

“The smell of the landfill reaches Mandurriao and even the Megaworld area. [Former Iloilo Governor Arthur Defensor Sr.] is among those who complain to me,” he added.

The mayor cited that the money saved from maintaining the landfill could be used for the city’s health initiatives, citing the devolved function of providing medicines.

The August 5, 2022 letter from MPW stated that the proposed Iloilo Solid Waste Management Facility (ISWMF) will be composed of a materials recovery facility, a mechanical biological treatment facility, an anaerobic digestion system, and refuse-derived fuel (RDF) production facility.

These facilities are expected to process and convert residual combustible solid waste into RDF, which is seen by the Department of Energy as a coal substitute.

They are being considered to be built on the site of the landfill, to produce 120 metric tons of RDF per day, hopefully clearing up to 23 hectares of solid waste.

But WTE facilities are rife with environmental concerns, with the US Environmental Protection Agency stating as early as 2006 that WTE incinerators and landfills “contribute far higher levels of greenhouse gas emissions and overall energy throughout their life cycles than source reduction, reuse, and recycling of the same materials.

A 2004 study in the United Kingdom also found that WTE incinerators contribute only between 19 to 27 percent of energy generation.

The group Zero Waste Europe noted that the European Union has begun phasing out WTE facilities under the 2015 EU Action Plan for the Circular Economy.

Since 1997, the United States has not built WTE facilities due to public resistance centered on health risks and higher costs.