The New Economic Zone
Winning the War on Waste The Laguna Lake Ecology Center delivers a win-win solution to Laguna Lake’s pollution problem
BY JOYCE REYES-AGUILA
Ahealthy planet depends on all of us.” In a few, powerful words, the United Nations Environment
Programme is able to underscore not only the urgency to act for the well-being of the world, but also on the need to do it in a unified manner. For despite geographical distance and differences, the resources of the planet are all interconnected. The conservation efforts in one area will be worthless if we push another area to the brink of destruction.
It is with this pressing need to act in concert that the Laguna Lake Ecology Center (LLEC) has been proposed. The awareness of the lake’s role in the ecosystem of the country’s capital is increasing, especially with current government efforts to develop it as a balanced and vibrant economic zone. The third-largest freshwater in Southeast Asia is facing challenges brought about by land conversion, pollution, and watershed destruction. And the negative impacts are affecting many of the country’s most vulnerable populations, including those who depend on Laguna Lake for food and livelihood.
The current stressed state of the multiuse lake will have long-term effects that can adversely impact the country’s entire ecosystem, including the more progressive cities that fringe the lake’s waters. Waste management is one of the main priority areas. If accomplished, it will address the polluted waters of the lake, which is caused primarily by the dumping of unprocessed sewerage. A recent study of the World Health Organization revealed that while 83% of the households surrounding the lake have mobile
phones, only 73% have working toilets.
The LLEC is seeking to create a unified area for Metro Manila’s waste-to-energy requirements.
Its establishment will provide a stage to generate clean energy via solar and wind power and promote ecotourism at the same time. Waste-toenergy efforts, according to the United States Energy Information Administration (USEIA), can process municipal waste that includes biomass or biogenic (plant or animal products), food waste, non-combustible materials, and non-biomass combustible materials to produce
energy. LLEC’s waste-to-energy site is planned by a consortium among energy technology provider and project financier Hitachi Zosen Corporation, property developer and co-project financier Triangle Mint Corporation, waste management and environmental consultant Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation (SMEC), and reclamation methodology and management consultant Surbana Jurong.
The 500-hectare site already has a zoning plan. In it, energy from waste plants and ancillary facilities will share the complex with solar panels, a Venice complex, as well as a theme park to support its ecotourism goals. The theme park will house a hotel complex, museum, wind turbines, and a wind farm. The office of the Laguna de Bay Development is also keen on tapping the transportation routes of the waters of Laguna de Bay to bring visitors to and from the many cities in Metro Manila, as well as the surrounding provinces of Cavite, Rizal, and Laguna. These areas are known for their historical sites, natural wonders, and lifestyle
THE LAGUNA LAKE ECOLOGY CENTER IS SEEKING TO CREATE
A UNIFIED AREA FOR MET RO MANILA’S WASTE-TO-ENERGY
REQUIREMENTS. ITS ESTABLISHMENT WILL PROVIDE A
STAGE TO GENERATE CLEAN ENERGY VIA SOLAR AND WIND
POWER AND PROMOTE ECOTOURISM AT THE SAME TIME.
The concept of waste-to-energy facilities and tourism being combined has been applied in different countries. As many of us know, hotels and restaurants generate waste and play a pivotal role in its correct management. Exposing citizens to institutions that practice environmentally sound waste management practices contributes to their education and awareness.
In Sweden, in line with the people’s desire to be kretsloppssamhället, or a society that chooses to reuse,
waste-to-energy efforts is one of its pillars. And according to Enviro Sweden on envirosweden.se, they allow visitors to visit the site so they can understand how sorting of waste has “proven to be a prerequisite for recovering useful material from waste and ensuring hazardous waste does not go astray.” They welcome over 10,000 guests into their treatment sites every year, with the belief that “seeing is believing,” and people learn when they are able “to see, smell, or talk to the operators managing” the site.
The London EcoPark also holds tours to its facilities to enable the public to see how household waste that cannot be recycled is converted to electricity. The 40-acre site is managed by the London Energy Ltd., responsible for providing waste management services to seven North London boroughs. Aside from a waste-to-energy facility, it also houses a compost center, waste transfer, and bulk recycling center.
In the Philippines, the proposed Laguna Lake Ecology Center is aligned with President Rodrigo
Duterte’s plan of exploring waste-to-energy facilities, which he talked about in his 2017 State of the Nation address. In it, he mentioned the availability of technology to address the waste disposal challenges of the country. Solid waste facilities are already available for some municipalities in Metro Manila, such as Quezon City. Private corporations, foreign governments, and international organizations are also establishing partnerships to build facilities such as the LLEC to promote renewable energy in countries like the Philippines where urbanization and economic development is ever increasing.