Albee shows proof in response to barking up wrong tree claim

The then Bacolod City Administrator John Orola at the September 2016 meeting, mayoral candidate Albee Benitez said.

Mayoral candidate Alfredo “Albee” Benitez maintained on Wednesday, January 19, that a proposal for a waste-to-energy plant was made during the administration of Bacolod Mayor Evelio Leonardia contrary to his camp’s claim that he was barking up the wrong tree.

Benitez, who is running for mayor of Bacolod, said he has a letter and photo to prove that the proposal was made during the administration of Leonardia.

The letter of invitation to a meeting for a waste to worth proposal was sent by Edgardo Bernal, president of Sure Global Waste2Worth Philippines Inc., to Leonardia on Aug. 25, 2016, he said.

Bernal, in his letter, said SGW was established in Singapore in 2014 for the purpose of developing waste to worth projects in Asia.

He invited Leonardia to a meeting at the Rodalla Center in Silay City on Sept.1, 2016, to discuss a waste study that would serve as the basis for the proposal.

Representatives of Leonardia, including John Orola, attended the meeting in Silay City, with others from the third district present as shown in a photo, Benitez said.

Orola was Leonarda’s City Administrator.

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, a press release from the Bacolod City Public Information Office said Wednesday.

Documents and timelines involving his proposal that eventually fizzled out six years ago, indicated that Benitez was telling half-truths when asked during the January 15 “Debate Eleksyon 2022” about his program on solid waste management if he is elected mayor.

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 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, the press release said.

City Administrator Edward Joseph Cuansing, who had served as a member of the Bacolod Solid Waste Management Board, in the press release presented the following clarifications in reaction to Benitez:

*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.

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

*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.

*After this presentation, the mayors of the LGUs who attended it were asked to sign a ceremonial commitment to participate in the project, which Puentevella signed for Bacolod City. This is confirmed by Ramel Palalon, incumbent officer-in-charge of the Department 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. 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.

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

*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, they were advised by the EMB/DENR to wait for the pertinent guidelines before entertaining any of these proposals.

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

Palalon also attested to the clarifications issued by Cuansing on Wednesday, it added.*

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