Benitez: Leonardia camp’s claims baseless, misleading

The claims made through the Bacolod Solid Waste Management Board by the camp of Mayor Evelio Leonardia on Wednesday, January 19, are false, baseless, misleading, and are the farthest from the truth, mayoral candidate Alfredo “Albee” Benitez said in a rejoinder Thursday, January 20.

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, the press release 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, it added.

The following was the rejoinder of Benitez:

CLAIM: Project referred to Benitez is only one of the several waste-to-energy proposals received by the Bacolod City Government.

TRUTH: Benitez initiated and proposed the project to address the garbage problem of Bacolod City even if he was not an official of Bacolod City. At the time when the project was proposed to Bacolod City, Benitez has no personal knowledge of any prior or existing waste-to-energy proposals. Instead, Benitez made such a proposal to Bacolod City, recognizing the City’s long-standing garbage problem. The project would have generated 10-12 megawatts of electricity for Bacolod City, at no cost to the City Government.

CLAIM: Bacolod City was invited to join the project because waste volume from Third District was insufficient for the requirements of the project.

TRUTH: It is distasteful for the camp of Leonardia to insinuate that the reason why Benitez invited Bacolod City to join the solid waste management project was only to address the alleged “insufficient” waste volume requirement needed for the project. True the proposed project would have been more feasible and viable with the participation of Bacolod City, owing its high volume of garbage, the truth of the matter is the reason why Benitez included Bacolod City in the project was to promote the welfare of Bacolodnons by helping the City properly dispose its waste.

CLAIM: The proponent company was allowed by Mayor Monico Puentevella to undertake a technical review and assessment of the City’s landfill and garbage volume.

TRUTH: The proponent company SURE Global W2Wi was indeed allowed by then Puentevella and the local chief executives of the five Local Government Units (“LGU”) of the Third District, Negros Occidental to conduct a waste amount characterization study (WACS) as initial step to determine feasibility of waste treatment facility to address the garbage problem in six LGUs. The WACS was supported by the technical assistance fund of the Asian Development Bank and was completed after the 2016 national and local elections. Its approval or non-approval or implementation was no longer in the hands of former mayor Puentevella but by the Leonardia administration who refused to commit to the project.

CLAIM: 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.

TRUTH: The final report of the WACS study was completed in May 2016. However, due to the changes in leadership in six LGUs, a briefing on the final report was held for newly-elected mayors on September 1, 2016. Through separate letters dated August 22, 2016 and August 25, 2016, Mayor Leonardia was invited to attend meeting. Leonardia again failed to attend but was represented by lawyer . John Orola, City Administrator, and Rodel Parcon, Executive Assistant to the Mayor.

CLAIM: 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.
TRUTH: The presentation to the mayors of the LGUs transpired on Sept. 1, 2016 during which time Mayor Leonardia was already in office. There was no signing of any document during the said meeting. The representatives of Leonardia did not indicate any form of commitment for the city citing lack of authority from Leonardia.

CLAIM: 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.

TRUTH: The project was conceptualized and initiated during the Puentevella Administration. However, the technical study report came after the 2016 elections during which time it was the Leonardia administration who took over. Despite full knowledge of the project, the Leonardia Administration did not show any semblance of interest in pursuing the same. SURE Global W2Wi even reached out to Bacolod City LGU directly – but for reasons known only to the Leonardia Administration, there was no commitment from Bacolod City.

Months later, the Leonardia Administration opted for a band-aid solution to address the garbage problem of the City by entering into a contract with IPM Construction and Development Corporation for collection, hauling and disposal of garbage in the Felisa landfill.

CLAIM: The project had apparently fizzled out. It appeared that not all the LGUs in the 3rd district supported the plan.

TRUTH: All Mayors of the Third District were present in the briefing and committed to implement the project.

CLAIM: Leonardia Administration consulted with the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) of the Department of Environment & 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).

TRUTH: Bacolod City has legal basis to proceed to implement the project. In 2016, National Solid Waste Management Commission issued Resolution No. 669, S. 2016, providing guidelines on establishment of WTE facilities for municipal solid wastes. Moreover, the Supreme Court in its decision in MMDA v. JANCOM Environmental Corporation [G.R. No. 147465] stated that “[the Clean Air Act] does not absolutely prohibit incineration as mode of waste disposal; rather only those burning processes which emit poisonous toxic fumes are banned.”

Thus, Bacolod City has sufficient legal basis to proceed with WTE facility in partnership with Third District LGUs – but Leonardia administration DID NOT ACT on the proposal.

“Benitez will never compromise with “half-truths” and settle with anything other than the whole truth. One thing and one thing alone is clear, the problems on garbage collection and disposal persist in our beloved Bacolod City, causing harm to the environment and public health, because of inaction and failure of Mayor Leonardia to find long-term and sustainable solutions to the problem,” the rejoinder said.

Finally, as the old adage goes, “don’t bark if you cannot bite”, it added.*

Secured By miniOrangeSecured By miniOrange