Green groups ask SC to junk DENR order allowing Waste-to-Energy facilities

Green groups ask SC to junk DENR order allowing Waste-to-Energy facilities
Environment groups, people’s organizations, and concerned individuals file a petition before the Supreme Court on July 15, 2021 against DENR’s waste-to-energy guidelines.
The STAR / KJ Rosales

MANILA, Philippines — Environmental advocates on Thursday filed a petition before the Supreme Court to void an environment department order allowing the use of Waste to Energy facilities, saying these do not offer a solution to managing waste and puts people at risk from toxic emissions.

Department of Environment and Natural Resources Deaprtment Administrative Order 2019-21 provides guidelines on the facilities, which burn waste or fuel derived from waste to produce energy.

Petitioners, represented by lawyers from the Philippine Earth Justice Center said the order is invalid and "will result in grave violations of the people’s Right to Health and the Right to a Balanced and Healthful Ecology under the Constitution."

Coleen Salamat, an environmental advocate and a petitioner, said in a release that Waste to Energy facilities "are false solutions" that she said justify the production of more plastics instead of reducing and eliminating their use.

"In the middle of a global pandemic, this will just add to the persistent health and climate crisis we are facing,” she said. In an online exchange with Philstar.com, she said that the Clean Air Act bans the use of incinerators to burn trash but that is also what WtE facilities do.

"WtE facilities merely transform the waste into other harmful substances, such as dioxins and furans. Dioxins and furans are highly toxic substances that cause cancer, diabetes, and chloracne," Rei Panaligan of Plastic-Free Pilipinas Project said in the same release.

"Also, WtE facilities emit high volumes of greenhouse gasses that accelerate climate change. This is why we really need to immediately stop the implementation of the DENR’s WtE Guidelines."

DAO 2019-21 includes guidelines on processing biodegradable and residual waste for use in the WtE facilities as well as on storage of wastes and by-products. It also requires regular monitoring of emissions and effluents. 

In the same release, lawyer Lievj Alimangohan, senior policy officer of the Ecowaste Coalition, said petitioners went to the Supreme Court to stop the implementation of the department order. 

"It is an invalid administrative order and, more importantly, its implementation will cause irreparable harm to human health and the environment," he said.

Petitioners also said DENR violated the Public Trust Doctrine in issuing DAO 2019-21. Under that doctrine, the environment department — as trustee of the country's natural resources — is obligated to preserve and conserve natural resources and to protect the environment from activities that will cause irreversible damage, they said.

They said allowing the use of Waste to Energy facilities that produce harmful emissions violates the DENR's obligation to the public.

The DENR has not responded to requests for comment on the petition.

The Philippines is among the countries most at risk from the climate crisis, with some areas of the country vulnerable to extreme weather events and from rising seas. Advocates in the country and abroad have been calling for drastic action like lowering carbon emissions and reducing waste to help address these risks. — Jonathan de Santos





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