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ADB warns of barriers to waste-to-energy investment

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Asian Development Bank (ADB)
BW FILE PHOTO

THE DEVELOPMENT of waste-to-energy (WTE) facilities in the Philippines through public-private partnerships (PPPs) may be plagued by uncertainty due to an inadequate legal framework, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) said.

“Municipal solid waste (MSW) processing and disposal remains a challenge in Bangladesh, India, and the Philippines. The uptake of WTE as a proven MSW treatment solution has not been realized in Bangladesh and the Philippines,” the ADB said in a working paper.

According to the ADB, the three countries are among the most populated, due to rapid urbanization. They are also the top MSW generators in Asia and in the world, and remain underdeveloped in terms of MSW processing and disposal. They are also net energy importers, and have not realized 100% electrification.

“Despite a well-established PPP regulatory framework and a mature PPP market for municipal infrastructure and public services, potential business opportunities in WTE in the three countries have not attracted private sector investors and financial institutions due to numerous barriers, and thus remain largely unexplored,” the ADB said.

“Ambiguity and inconsistency that leads to an open interpretation of WTE’s role needs to be avoided. The ban on incineration in the Philippines is an example,” it added.

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This is because the Clean Air Act, Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, and the Renewable Energy Act bans municipal solid waste incineration can be interpreted in various ways.

“It could mean either a totally unconditional ban on incineration regardless of technology specifications and emission standards, or a conditional ban that applies only to incineration that emits poisonous and toxic fumes exceeding the stipulated limits,” the ADB said.

The PPP Center is currently bidding out the P22-billion Quezon City Waste-to-Energy facility project that is expected to be implemented by early 2019. The facility will have the capacity to convert up to 3,000 metric tons a day from Quezon City’s municipal waste to 42 megawatts, which can power around 60,000 to 90,000 homes.

The PPP Center earlier described WTEs as the “next wave” of PPPs, due to strong local government and investor interest. Cebu is also considering setting up its own WTE facilities.

According to the working paper, the Philippines’ 45.2 million urban population produces 30,000 tons of municipal solid waste per day, mostly from Metro Manila. This compares with China’s 520,000 tons per day, 707,000 tons in the US, 188,500 tons in India, and 61,400 tons in Bangladesh.

It noted that the Philippines only collects 40-85% of the generated waste, meaning the 15-60% is improperly disposed of.

The Philippines has one WTE facility, the Payatas Controlled Waste Disposal Facility in Quezon City, which opened in 2008. Electricity generated from the facility is sold to the Manila Electric Company to supply nearby communities. — Elijah Joseph C. Tubayan

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