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City hall refutes SWM ‘beautiful plan’ claims

Former congressman Albee Benitez was clearly barking up the wrong tree by blaming Bacolod City for his failure to build an incinerator plant to answer the solid waste management problems of the Third District of Negros Occidental, a press release from Bacolod City Hall said.

Documents and timelines involving his proposal that eventually fizzled out six years ago, indicated that Benitez was telling half-truths when asked during the supposed January 15 debate about his program on solid waste management if he is elected mayor, it said.

Benitez told the virtual debate that featured only him, he had what he called a “beautiful plan” in 2016 for the Third District and Bacolod to put up a waste-to-energy facility, adding that he believed it could have been a good solution to the waste disposal problems of the Third District and Bacolod City combined, the press release said.

Unfortunately, he further claimed in the same supposed debate-turned-talk show, that Bacolod City did not participate in the plan, it said.

It was an allusion aimed at Mayor Evelio Leonardia but Benitez was barking up the wrong tree because the mayor in 2016 was Monico Puentevella, who is, ironically related to the former Third District solon by affinity, it added.

Puentevella is married to Benitez’s close relative, the press release said.

Bacolod City Administrator Edward Joseph Cuansing, who had served as a member of the Bacolod Solid Waste Management Board, presented a nine-point clarification in reaction to Benitez’s claims to put on record the following facts:

He said the proposed project referred to by Benitez in his comments on January 15 is only one of the several waste-to-energy proposals received by the Bacolod City Government.

The company that proposed that project for the 3rd district found that the volume of wastes from that area was insufficient for its technical viability. Hence, the invitation to the Bacolod LGU to join so that the combined waste volume needed would be met, he said.

The proponent-company was then allowed by the Puentevella Administration to undertake a technical review and assessment of the City’s landfill and garbage volume over a period of time, Cuansing said.

While no exit conference was held to inform the Bacolod LGU of the technical findings from that review/assessment, then Bacolod City mayor Puentevella and other city officials were eventually invited to a project briefing at Silay City, with the 3rd district as lead convenor, he said.

Cuansing said that after this presentation, the mayors of the LGUs who attended it were asked to sign a ceremonial commitment to participate in the project, which then mayor Puentevella signed for Bacolod City.  This is confirmed below by Ramel Palalon and Ma. Fe Trespuentes, both of the Dept. of Public Services (DPS) of Bacolod City, who attended that briefing with Puentevella.

After that briefing in Silay City, the Puentevella Administration did not receive further communications from the 3rd district, he said.

There is no record that a follow-up Memorandum of Agreement among the intended LGU-participants was received by the Puentevella Administration from the lead convenor – the 3rd district, for action by the Bacolod Sangguniang Panlungsod, Cuansing said.

Later reports indicated that the project had apparently fizzled out. It appeared that not all the LGUs in the 3rd district supported the plan, the city administrator said.

For its part, the Leonardia Administration consulted with the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) on how to proceed with the several waste-to-energy project proposals submitted to the Bacolod LGU, as we were uncertain whether such waste disposal projects, especially those involving incineration, were in full compliance with RA 9003 (Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000) and RA 8749 (Philippine Clean Air Act of 1999).  At that time, we were advised by the EMB/DENR to wait for the pertinent guidelines before entertaining any of these proposals, Cuansing said.

This statement is being issued to clarify the facts about the participation of Bacolod City in that proposed joint project with the 3rd district, he said.

Palalon, DPS officer-in-charge, also attested to the clarifications issued by Cuansing yesterday.*

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