Taken for fools


    “BIOSPHERE IS dead.”

    That was the quick retort of City of San Fernando Mayor Edwin Santiago to my query at the impromptu media conference held on the sidelines of his Christmas treat to the working press.

    “We have decided to rescind the agreement on the Biosphere project because the proponent, Spectrum Blue Steel Corp., failed to comply with the provisions of the contract for the full operation of the supposed to be multimillion dollar waste-to-energy plant,” he said, and promised to make a public announcement about that unlamented demise.

    “Really dead.” Affirmed Acting City Administrator Engr. Fernando Limbitco of the Biosphere project that was officially birthed in 2006. “For so long we have been prodding them to comply with the provisions of the partnership agreement and the deliverables.

    Repeatedly, they failed, even as they vowed to complete the gasification plant in a year. The city government and our solid waste management simply got fed up, so we decided to rescind the contract. They kept on asking us for the land title and other documents when they did very little to comply with provisions of the memorandum of agreement.” So Limbitco qualified in a follow-up story in Sun-Star Pampanga.

    Limbitco, who admitted to have been tasked with the documentation of Biosphere in his capacity as city planning officer, disclosed that he was “very hesitant and reluctant to process the documents, because Spectrum Blue Steel officials kept on promising to comply with the agreement each time the city government prodded them on the requirements.”

    Long on promise, short on delivery. Plain and simple there. “They put up the building and some equipment but it was not enough. They even erected electricity transmission posts at the facility supposedly to deliver the energy to nearby barangays. They showed a sample pellet produced from the equipment but that was it.

    And then there was nothing more in the following years except they kept saying other equipment to complete the facility was already in transit and being shipped. Gewa da ka ming mulala (They made fools out of us),” Limbitco lamented.

    One BIG FOOL, the city government was indeed made of with the Biosphere project. The wonder of it is how, and why, it took so many years before anyone at city hall realized this.


    It did not exactly take a rocket scientist to see the scam that was the Biosphere project. Punto, especially this corner, made an advocacy of exposing the scum that the project proponent really was. In February 2011, we bannered the story of the operating Barangay Lara dumpsite, complete with a photograph of a young scavenger holding the Sun-Star Pampanga issue of the day with then-Mayor Oscar Rodriguez denying the dumpsite’s  existence.

    And in a subsequent Zona Libre I wrote: No dumpsite but a “residual waste storage” so Rodriguez responded, averring that “San Fernando has the most proper practice of disposing residual waste because we already have a structure. We are just waiting for our partner fi rm to collect enough residual waste that can be transformed into energy or electricity.”

    (In a subsequent story, bannered in our Feb. 11-12 issue, a self-confl icted Rodriguez blamed that “partner firm,” Spectrum Blue Steel Corp. for the delay of the biosphere facility which should have operated last year.

    “Properly reprimanded” Rodriguez said of the fi rm). Woe unto Rodriguez though, there is the Most Rev. Pablo Virgilio David, auxiliary bishop of San Fernando, to admonish him: “Don’t deny the dumpsite.”

    The pictures Punto published clearly showed that “it is a dumpsite,” Among Ambo said in an interview. And there is no such thing as “residual waste storage” in Republic Act 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2001, the prelate hastened to add. So what was Rodriguez saying?

    Oca’s it

    In the Sun-Star Pampanga story last week, Limbitco said it was upon Rodriguez’s insistence that he worked on the Biosphere documents: “Mayor Oca told me, baka naman totoo iyan eh wala naming mawawala sa atin. And let us also do our part in the agreement and ipakita natin na mahusay tayong kausap.”

    Limbitco said Rodriguez later was dismayed for having been “taken for a ride” by Spectrum Blue Steel. “In 2011, (Spectrum Blue Steel) admitted to the city government and the city’s solid waste management board that the Biosphere technology was not working here at all.

    We have reiterated that it was still incineration disguised as gasifi cation and that it was impossible at that point to process the 600 tons per day of waste into energy given the incomplete facility.

    They insisted introducing another technology but we’ve had enough. It was bogus.” Limbitco furthered, which led to the scrapping of the agreement. If indeed, the city government have had enough of the “bogus” Biosphere project in 2011, how come its minions were still engaged in spirited defense of it in 2012.

    Con game

    Again, I reprint here part of Zona Libre of June 5, 2012 titled “Garbage con”: Even as the bishop strongly denounced the dumpsite, the city stubbornly denies its existence. Pointing to the mountains of stinking garbage there as “residual wastes” stocked to be processed into energy-producing pellets.

    “Barangay Lara is where you can find Spectrum Blue Steel’s (SBS) pelletizing plant. The plant is close to the city’s former open dumpsite.” So was one Esteban Callo Jr., chief engineer of True Green Energy Corporation (TGEG), quoted in a story here. “Unfortunately, we had problems in shredding residual wastes when our machine malfunctioned which forced us to pile up ready-to-shred residual wastes outside the plant.”

    Only idiots will buy such an alibi. And an unbuying Mayor Oscar Rodriguez promptly ordered SBS to shred all remaining residuals within three weeks or if they can’t, to bring all residuals to the sanitary Kalangitan landfill.

    That order made on May 23, Mayor Oca’s deadline for SBS is tomorrow, June 6. What gives, thereafter?

    Whatever, the prospects are not promising. “Rowee Freeman, City of San Fernando environment officer, said a small volume of waste is thrown in Kalangitan because the bulk has been diverted to a wasteto- energy facility that is operated by the Spectrum Blue Steel Corp. since March 1.”

    (Underscoring mine). So was written in Tonette’s Inquirer story of May 28, that came after the Punto! story, May
    24, of the SBS admission of its failure to pelletize and thus the pile up of “residual wastes” in Lara. Freeman is apparently clueless of what’s smelling in her own stinking backyard.

    Her assertion in the same Inquirer story that the “waste segregation campaign has reduced residual waste by 25 percent from 130 MT in 2010 to 100 MT in 2011” only compounded, if not complexed, her cluelessness.

    While incredulous with her figures, given the Metro Clark Waste Management Corp. report of the City of San Fernando generating 51,464.16 metric tons of waste in 2011, Freeman nevertheless affirmed, if inadvertently – via simple arithmetic – that indeed, the city has a gargantuan waste mismanagement problem.

    Okay dummies, the equation goes: 51,464.16 metric tons of waste minus 100 metric tons of residual waste equals 51,364.16 metric tons, less “small volume of waste thrown in Kalangitan” equals BIG volume of waste
    unmanaged. Some 700 tons of it piled up in Lara.

    And then there’s the highly respected Marco Nepomuceno of ENext, a Belgian company that produces “high-calorifi c green coal,” casting doubt on the integrity of SBS’ pelletizing plant. A working plant, so Nepomuceno contends, needs no less than $27 million to put up and operate. That’s over P1 billion.

    The dysfunctionality, if not inoperability, of the SBS’ facility in Lara makes an affirmation of Nepomuceno’s contention. Which, its engineer, Callo himself confi rmed: “As of now, all we can do is sort out residuals being sent to our plant.

    We cannot yet press together or pelletize these residuals because we’re still waiting for our bigger machines,” adding that his company’s top offi cials in Thailand have heard of the problem but have not given any responses yet. Pure garbage talk. All the pun intended there.


    So Biosphere is now dead. And P.T. Barnum lives: “There’s a sucker born every minute.” Why, only last September we noted here: THEY’RE NO Greeks bearing gifts, but Pampanga’s LGUs better beware of them.

    They are foreign companies or consortia proffering facilities – at little or no cost to the government – to solve the garbage problem of the province. “$450-M plasma plant to solve trash problem,” the Capitol press released last Friday about US-based Quantum International Group, Inc. seeking a joint venture with the provincial government.

    The intent: “to establish a plasma waste treatment facility for the processing and disposal of municipal and industrial solid wastes.” …The PR furthered: “Merlinda Cantero, vice president of Quantum Philippines Property Holdings and Management, Inc., disclosed that the proposed plasma gasifi cation plant needs at least 2,000 metric tons of municipal and industrial wastes daily and is expected to produce power supply not only for the province but for some other parts of Central Luzon…”

    Caveat: Anything that is too good to be true is certainly not true. Will our LGUs ever learn?


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