February 28, 2024

■  Jane B. Cadalig 

The city council deferred its action on a request to confirm a memorandum of agreement for the establishment of a waste-to-energy (WTE) facility for Baguio City.

The action came following the members’ observations on the MOA signed between Mayor Benjamin Magalong and Metro Global Energy Corporation led by Robert John Sobrepeña.

The company is a subsidiary of Metro Global Holdings Corporation, the firm that was granted the original proponent status to establish an elevated monorail system for Baguio on a public-private partnership scheme.

The already signed MOA that was submitted to the city council for confirmation, provides, among other things, that Baguio will supply the residual waste as feedstock supply to Metro Global’s WTE facility, which will be established in Sablan, Benguet.

Councilor Peter Fianza, chair of the committee on laws where the MOA was referred to, presented the MOA for an en banc discussion.

He said while the MOA is only preliminary, there are some items that already binds the city to the transaction.

“It is manifested in the MOA that there shall be a service contract to be undertaken later on which will incorporate how much shall be paid for the (WTE) facility,” Fianza said, to which Vice Mayor Faustino Olowan responded, “there is no facility yet.”

Metro Global intends to set up the WTE facility in Sablan in three years.

Councilor Betty Lourdes Tabanda said the MOA might not comply with Republic Act 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act (GPRA).

“If this is a preliminary MOA, does it mean we will automatically enter into a service contract with Metro Waste? We are committing to deliver all our waste to the WTE. Since it’s going to be a service contract eventually, do we not need to go through procurement process? Is this not an automatic contract with Metro Waste?” Tabanda said.

“I am concerned about the process, because after three years, when the facility is established, we are legally bound by this service contract without the process of procurement. Will we not be liable for anti-graft?”

Although he said the council can set conditions in confirming the MOA since it is preliminary in nature, Fianza shared Tabanda’s view that the council might be liable for not complying with the GPRA.

“For us to procure, there must already be an allocation for the contract. Another observation is, it may not also be good for us if we already have a permanent facility to dispose our garbage or if we find a facility that can accommodate our waste at a cheaper price,” Fianza said.

He added the only advantage that can be gleaned from the MOA is that, Baguio has a ready facility to accommodate its wastes.

Councilor Jose Molintas said he sees nothing wrong with the MOA since it is just preliminary and conditional.

“There is no agreement yet. We were made to understand that it will only be used to support the application of the proponent to a loan that is connected to the monorail project. If there will be a final agreement, it should conform with the conditions we set and with the law,” he said.

Councilor Benny Bomogao said even if the MOA is preliminary, the council must study its actions carefully as it appears the proposal will benefit the proponent.

“We have to exercise caution. We are being required to do something that will benefit one party only. We will deliver the garbage that will serve as the feedstock that will produce the energy. Instead of confirming the MOA, why not study the option to come up with a memorandum of understanding for the city and Metro Waste to go for a joint venture? That way, we will not go through the process of procurement,” he said.

Tabanda added the WTE proposal does not go well with the program of garbage reduction, since the facility will require more volume of garbage to be generated.

“Let us study this further because it may not be the best thing for our solid waste management program,” she said.