DENR wants updated solid waste management law to better address PH garbage problem

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 16) — The Department of Environment and Natural Resources wants the law on solid waste management amended to keep up with the times, an agency official says.

“Actually, the [Ecological] Solid Waste Management Act, yung [the] RA 9003, is a good law. But of course like other laws, we need to update also this law,” DENR Undersecretary for Policy, Planning and International Affairs Jonas Leones told CNN Philippines’ The Exchange on Friday. “This was passed in 2000 and a lot of things happened, there are already new technologies on how to dispose this kind of waste.”

Among these technologies are waste-to-energy projects, which Leones said are in place in other countries. However, such technology has yet to be allowed in the Philippines, which he says has been facing an alarming surge in garbage generation during the raging health crisis as medical wastes in particular pile up steadily.

“If we can amend or revise some provisions of RA 9003 to include the waste-to-energy projects, I think we can adequate address this problem,” he added.

The utilization of waste-to-energy facilities in the country’s waste management efforts has been forwarded by lawmakers like Sen. Sherwin “Win” Gatchalian. He is among the authors of Senate Bill No. 1789, or the proposed “Waste-to-Energy Act,” which aims to hit two birds with one stone: beef up the country’s waste treatment and disposal, and generate sustainable energy. 

Given that current environmental laws ban technologies using incineration, Leones said authorities have found an avenue for adopting waste-to-energy projects by allowing certain industries to non-burn technology in addressing their garbage woes.

For now, the DENR is in close coordination with hospitals, which generate massive amounts of medical waste amid the health crisis, along with local governments, as they are in charge of managing households’ medical garbage like face masks and shields.

Local governments likewise observe protocols set by the agency in the disposal of such wastes.

“We have a special crew dressed in PPE, special trucks that collect these infectious wastes. Then these are subjected to the different guidelines that are mandated by the DENR before they go to the landfill,” said Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte about how her locality handles medical waste especially those hailing from areas under special concern lockdown due to clustering of COVID-19 cases.

Meanwhile for hospitals, Leones said hospitals register their waste to the agency, which in turn grants them assistance and special permits on disposing such garbage.