A technology that may become a multi-faceted solution for the nation is the waste-to-fuel, or WTF, process which does away with the serious environmental problems that are associated with burning trash to run power generators.
While waste-to-energy, or WTE, emerges as a risk, not a solution, WTF could set off a paradigm shift in cheap but reliable energy.
A bill, pending at the Senate, seeks to institutionalize WTE but overlooks the value of WTF which evidence suggests is a much safer, cleaner way to convert garbage dumps into a repository of fuel sources.
For WTF to prosper, the law must straighten the maze of bureaucracy that involves at least three agencies — the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the Department of Energy and the Department of the Interior and Local Government.
The DENR is there because the system involves waste and the WTF industry’s impact on the environment in the process of turning waste into fuel for power generation.
The DoE is involved because the system is centered on the industry’s main product — electricity.
The DILG is in the loop, too, because it is supposed to oversee the waste management operations of local governments from where the raw material for fuel, garbage, will emanate.
Most countries the size of the Philippines and smaller within the region have had various stages of WTE systems.
There are enough lessons to be learned from other countries with a more advanced experience with WTE so let’s learn from them.
WTE or the direct use of burning trash to feed power generators is saddled with complexities other than it could escalate the amount of poison that we are already breathing in our air.
Scientific evidence would suggest that directly feeding power generators with burning trash will not solve runaway waste and expensive energy. Instead, it will just add a bigger problem — toxicity.
Preference for WtF would help address this main concern about WTE and the process it takes to turn waste into energy.
But to plant the seeds for WTF, there should be a good rationale for those who would dig deep into their pockets to invest in the industry.
It would take more than tax breaks or holidays to entice investments into WTF, an entirely new enterprise that will take years to mature.
In many countries, using waste as fuel for energy has won government guarantees because, like a newborn, the industry would need steady hands to keep its first steps steady.
Investors and local governments that would oversee the management of waste would benefit greatly from clear pricing formulas.
The experience of India and Thailand, among several countries with working WtF industries, can serve as lesson plans.
Legislation-wise, the Philippines has already taken the first step in a potentially game-changing WTF industry through the National Ecological Solid Waste Management Act.
But implementing the law has proven to be a daunting, often impossible, task.