MMDA explains increase in garbage collection bill
The significant increase in the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority’s (MMDA) spending for garbage collection was not for the hauling of trash, but the “tipping fees” for contractors of sanitary landfills.
This was the explanation of MMDA Chair Romando Artes Jr. after the Commission on Audit (COA) noted that between 2018 and 2022, the agency’s spending on sanitation services went up by 83.6 percent, or P1.52 billion.
Artes told the Inquirer that while garbage collection falls under the responsibility of local governments in Metro Manila, the agency shoulders the tipping fees for sanitary landfills.
A tipping fee is paid by anyone who disposes of waste at a garbage processing facility.
Artes said that the last time tipping rates went up was in 2002, when these were set at P171 per cubic meter.
He added that three of the agency’s contracted landfills reminded him of this through a letter in 2018. The three were the San Mateo sanitary landfill, International Swims Inc. in Rodriguez, Rizal and Phileco of the Navotas landfill.
According to Artes, the three contractors cited rising gas prices and the peso-dollar exchange rate in their demand for a 100-percent hike in tipping fees. He said that in 2019, the MMDA asked for additional funds from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to grant the increase.
The DBM responded by approving a 50-percent hike, saying this was a “reasonable increase.” As a result, the tipping fee of P171 per cubic meter went up to P257. “So that’s the explanation for the increase; it’s not because we have high expenditures, but we were allowed by the DBM to pay 50 percent more for the fees,” Artes said.
The other increases noted by the COA in the MMDA’s financial statements could be attributed to the rise in goods deliveries between 2020 and 2021, or during the pandemic, which contributed to the hike in trash volume.
“There were plenty of food [waste], packaging from online shopping like boxes and single-use plastics. So during the pandemic, the volume of trash actually increased,” Artes said.
As for the possible shortening of the lifespan of landfills, which were filling up quicker than projected, Artes said that while two of the three contracted landfills could still accommodate trash, the one in Navotas may be full in two to three years’ time.
The MMDA is conducting studies on waste-to-energy conversion to ease the pile of trash in Navotas, Artes said, adding that they were expecting to complete the study within the year.