Philippine health groups call on government to uphold ban on burning waste

July 19, 2021

Philippine health professionals called on President Rodrigo Duterte to uphold the ban on garbage incinerators ahead of his State of the Nation Address this month.

On July 17, medical groups called on the president to disallow proposed measures in Congress that press for the use of incinerators “disguised as waste-to-energy technologies.”

Dr. Maricar Limpin of the group Action on Smoking and Health Philippines urged Duterte to veto “toxic bills” and instead press for priority laws “that will further improve public healthcare.”

In April, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian proposed the use of WTE facilities for “proper” disposal of household and medical waste that have accumulated during the pandemic.

The senator’s proposed “Waste-to-Energy Act” aims to allow the use of WTE facilities to manage waste treatment and disposal and to generate energy.

The proposed measure states that it will only allow waste treatment technologies that are not harmful to the environment or those that do not emit toxic and poisonous fumes.

Limpin said, however, that allowing the use of incinerators “will undermine years of hard work in pushing for safe and effective ecological solid waste management solutions.”

She said these facilities are “very costly to operate” and will only “promote further production of garbage to make it economically viable.”

“We should focus on waste prevention and minimization, and not through dirty technological solutions,” said Limpin.

Medical waste incinerators have been banned in the country since 2003 in compliance with the Clean Air Act.

Dr. Paula Sta. Maria of the Philippine College of Physicians said incineration “is definitely not an option” to the surge of biomedical waste brought about by the pandemic.

“We do not need dirty and very costly technologies, which cause more harm to our health and climate,” she said.

Sta. Maria urged the public to “rally to protect the integrity of the air that we breathe since our primary survival depends on it.”

“We need to have a healthy environment, free of toxins and pollutants to win the battle against COVID-19 and other unforeseen public health concerns,” she added.

The group EcoWaste Coalition said a “Zero Waste approach is still the best way in waste and resource management.”

“It is a cost-effective and safer option that generates jobs while protecting the climate and the environment,” the group said in a statement.

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