Environmental groups threaten to sue Cimatu
MANILA, Philippines — Environment groups have threatened to sue Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu for issuing an administrative order that laid down the guidelines for waste-to-energy (WTE) facilities, which they said violated existing environmental laws.
No Burn Pilipinas and EcoWaste Coalition served a “notice to sue” to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) last week, calling on Cimatu to rescind his order in 30 days, or face legal action.
Aaron Pedrosa, the group’s legal counsel, said the DENR Administrative Order No. 2019-21 extended a “blanket clearance” for incinerator projects, which involve the burning of trash supposedly to produce usable energy, such as heat and electricity.
“This clearly violates existing laws, such as the Ecological Waste Management Act and the Clean Air Act,” he told a press briefing.
Section 20 of the Clean Air Act clearly bans incineration, which is defined as the “burning of municipal, biomedical and hazardous waste, which process emits poisonous and toxic fumes.”
Pedrosa said the issuance of the guidelines was also contradictory to the DENR’s own mandate to enforce environmental laws.
“By promulgating [this order], it overlooks realities in the ground, such as the health hazards linked with incineration,” he said.
The operation of WTE projects, the groups said, would produce dioxin and furan, which are hazardous substances from fly ash and bottom ash. These facilities are also expected to heavily emit carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that worsens global warming, they said.
The guidelines, issued by Cimatu in November last year, were also done without public consultations, they said.
“This is scientifically deficient,” Pedrosa said. “[It] ignores best practices on zero waste and existing environmental laws.”
Sought for comment, Environment Undersecretary Benny Antiporda called the groups’ action as “very unfair.”
Antiporda oversees solid waste management and local government units in the environment agency.
He said that the order would not “tolerate the direct burning per se.”
“The minute that these WTE facilities will violate the Clean Air Act, the secretary can immediately make a cease-and-desist order without going through the pollution adjudication board,” he told the Inquirer.
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