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Protesters in Quezon City, resist planned incinerators despite national ban, Philippines


The Philippines has a national ban on incineration, following the passage of two landmark laws: the Philippine Clean Air Act of 1999 and the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000. But since 2012, the incineration ban has been under threat, as the House Bill 2286 in Congress is seeking to repeal the ban. Local government officials in Quezon City see the repeal of the ban as their chance to solve the city’s waste management issues while thousands of citizens, including waste pickers and national environmental justice organizations, take to the streets of Quezon City in protest, saying that the right of people to breathe clean air and to have a healthy environment would be violated if the ban is lifted. [1][2]

Furthermore, the promotion of incinerators ignores the contribution of the informal work performed by waste pickers, whose livelihoods will also be under threat if the construction of incinerators is completed.

In Quezon City, rapid urban development, increasing population and heightened economic activity has resulted in an exponential increase of waste generation. The daily municipal waste is estimated to 2.715 tons, based on a 2014 census, and with this, challenges arise in terms of solid waste collection and disposal [10]. To help address what is a nationwide problem of waste, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), local governments and multinational corporations seek to promote incinerators, also called Waste-to-Energy technologies. The first suggestion to lift the ban on incinerators came in 2012 from the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority. Since then, many foreign firms and investors have been attracted as potential collaborators on planned incinerators in Quezon City. In 2017, the consortium of the infrastructure conglomerate Metro Pacific Investments Corporation (MPIC), Covanta Energy, and Macquarie Group Limited was granted original proponent status by the Quezon City government. MPIC president and chief executive officer Jose Ma. Lim has explained how the construction of the incinerator will be “a sustainable approach to society’s use of resources.” [5]

On the other side, No Burn Pilipinas (NBP), Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) and several other green groups are strongly opposing the repeal of the ban. Green advocacy leaders and Quezon City residents Von Hernandez and Sonia Mendoza have denounced the local government’s move as a “death blow” to waste prevention and recycling initiatives. [3]

Von Hernandez, Global Coordinator of the Break Free from Plastic movement, says that “Repealing the incineration ban is bad news for the environment, public health and local communities”. Hernandez claims the incinerators or ‘waste-to-energy’ plants presents a “triple whammy” for Filipinos, as it translates to higher electricity costs, higher waste disposal fees, and higher risks of cancer for host communities. Hernandez adds how “[i]ncinerators threaten human health, pollute our air, harm our economies, contribute significantly to global warming, and fuel an unsustainable system of consumption and wasting." Besides these mentioned threats, the construction of incinerators poses a direct threat to the livelihoods of all the waste pickers who earn a living of collecting and re-selling materials from urban waste from Quezon City. An estimated 4000 waste pickers are working in the dumpsites of Quezon City, and if an incinerator is to be constructed, the waste pickers in the city will be deprived of their source of income. [2][4]

No Burn Pilipinas (NBP) - an alliance of civil society groups who are advocating Zero Waste technologies – has condemned the House Bill 2286 and called on the government to uphold the ban on waste incineration. No Burn Pilipinas has also expressed that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ (DENR) promotion of Waste-to-Energy is not only regressive but also runs counter to their mandate to ensure a healthy environment for Filipinos. [2]

In Quezon City on January 19th 2019 environmental groups, under the alliance of No Burn Pilipinas, trooped to DENR and told them to “Do your job and don’t violate the laws”,  calling Secretary Roy Cimatu to respect the law and refrain from issuing the pending Waste-to-Energy incineration guidelines. The groups reiterated that right to balanced and healthy ecology is clearly stated in the Philippine constitution, and that the DENR has its written mandate to protect the public and the environment, which would all be violated and neglected once waste-to-energy guidelines are issued. [11][12]

The following day, the groups under No Burn Pilipinas marched to DENR again, to demand Roy Cimatu to respect the law. The groups protested in front of DENR and performed organized speeches. DENR staff negotiated with the groups but were not able to report on the status of the waste-to-energy guidelines. The groups marched on to Quezon City Hall to call on the local unit to reject the construction of waste incineration in Quezon City. The actions were reported on the groups’ social media with the hashtags #NoToIncineration #NoToWasteIncineration #IncinerationKills #ClimateJusticeNow #UpholdRA8794 #UpholdRA9003 [11]

Only few days later, thousands of people marched in Quezon City to uphold the ban on incinerators in a Walk for Clean Air [9]. The citizens demanded the right to clean air and a healthy ecology and chanted “NO TO INCINERATION, YES TO CLEAN AIR”. Waste picker and community member Joan Amitan of the community Nagkakaisang Lakas ng Mamamayan ng Longos (NLML) participated in the march and explained how building waste incineration facilities will paralyze their families’ income. Joan Amitan said: “We are joining this march to oppose the construction of harmful waste incinerators. Aside from the dangers it can cause to our community and our daily lives, it also ignores our contribution to the effective implementation of waste segregation.” [9]

The affected population of the planned incinerator, which include waste pickers and community members, are up against strong corporate power and big investments, as the Waste-to-Energy industry is getting more and more profitable to enter. In 2018, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) stated the following in a report: “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”. In the ADB report, Waste-to-Energy is considered as a renewable energy. It states that there is a strong government and investor interest in Waste-to-Energy and warned against the ‘barriers’ against Waste-to-Energy investments. [6]

As a response, GAIA has pusblished a report on "how Asia's "development" bank is preventing the region from achieving a sustainable Zero Waste future", in which they argue that the ADB - through its promotion of incinerators - is endangering people's health and well-being, destroying livelihoods, harming the environment and contribute to climate change. [13]

In a statement from March 2019, No Burn Pilipinas denounced the Quezon City local government, and a group composed of Metro Pacific Investments Corp. (MPIC), Covanta Energy and the Macquarie Group for pushing the project despite opposition from residents and civil society organizations. No Burn Pilipinas, together with its community partners globally and from different areas in the country remain firm on their stand against waste incineration, saying that it violates the right of the people to breathe clean air and for a healthy environment. [8]

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Protesters in Quezon City, resist planned incinerators despite national ban, Philippines
State or province:Manila
Location of conflict:Quezon City
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Waste Management
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Waste privatisation conflicts / waste-picker access to waste
Specific commodities:Domestic municipal waste

Project Details and Actors

Project details

Metro Pacific Investments Corporation (MPIC), Covanta Energy, and Macquarie Group Limited is granted original proponent status by the Quezon City government for its proposed P22-billion (429,944,277.00 USD) waste-to-energy project. The construction is to begin in 2019 and to be undertaken through a joint venture between the Quezon City government and the consortium, a so called Public-Private Partnership (PPP). The facility would be capable of processing and converting up to 3,000 metric tons per day of Quezon City’s municipal solid waste into 42 megawatts (MW) of renewable energy. [5][6]

Level of Investment for the conflictive project429,944,277.00
Type of populationUrban
Start of the conflict:01/03/2012
Company names or state enterprises:Metro Pacific Investments Corporation (MPIC) from Philippines - As part of a consortium, MPIC has been contracted by the Quezon City government to perform the construction of an incinerator
Covanta Energy from United States of America
Macquarie Group from Australia
Relevant government actors:Quezon City government
International and Finance InstitutionsAsian Development Bank (ADB)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:No Burn Pilipinas:

Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives:

Break Free From Plastic Movement:

Mother Earth Foundation:

EcoWaste Coalition:

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:International ejos
Local ejos
Wastepickers, recyclers
Forms of mobilization:Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches


Environmental ImpactsPotential: Air pollution, Global warming, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Health ImpactsPotential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place


Project StatusPlanned (decision to go ahead eg EIA undertaken, etc)
Conflict outcome / response:Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Proposal and development of alternatives:The coalition of green organization are pushing for the strict implementation of the Ecological Solid Waste Management law of year 2000 (RA 9003) which reinforces the ban on incineration, decentralizes waste management from the city to the barangay (village), requires waste separation at source, and door-to-door collection, and the creation of materials recovery facility in every barangay for composting and storage of residuals and recyclables. [1]

According to Sonia Mendoza, Chairman of Mother Earth Foundation (MEF), “Implementing Zero Waste solutions is inexpensive and can be started immediately (…). We are calling on other LGUs [local government units] to reject all incineration and WtE proposals, and instead pursue the Zero Waste approach, starting with the strict implementation of RA 9003.” [2]

National Coordinator of EcoWaste Coalition, Aileen Lucero argue that: “The push to revoke the incineration ban will undermine source segregation, recycling and other Zero Waste strategies that conserve resources, avoid toxic pollution and generate livelihoods and jobs. Instead of overturning the prohibition on waste burning, Congress should, in fact, strengthen it by passing waste prevention and reduction measures complementing RA 9003 such as banning single-use plastic bags, disallowing recyclable and compostable materials in disposal facilities, curbing e-waste, and incentivizing innovations in waste management sector.” [2]
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The struggle has been ongoing since 2012, where the first suggestion to repeal the ban on incinerators was put forward. The incinerator has not yet been built, but its construction is planned and the project has been granted to a consortium.

Sources & Materials

Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

Ecological Solid Waste Act 9003, 2001

Ecological Solid Waste Act 9003, 2000

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[13] GAIA Report, "ADB and Waste Incineration: Bankrolling Pollution, Blocking Solutions"

[1] Incineration not a solution, green groups warn Western brands found polluting in the Philippines

[2] Civil society coalition slams move to repeal incineration ban

[4] Global Alliance of Waste Pickers (Globalrec): Law report - Philippines

[8] No Burn Pilipinas against incinerator in Quezon City

[10] Ecocoalition - Quezon City profile

Ecocoalition - Quezon City profile

Civil society coalition slams move to repeal incineration ban

Global Alliance of Waste Pickers (Globalrec): Law report - Philippines

Meta information

Contributor:EnvJustice, Intern team 2019 (NC)
Last update30/05/2019
Conflict ID:4147



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