Efforts to waste

By Farah G. Decano


I am extremely happy that Dagupan’s version of the Smokey Mountain located in Bonuan is now being addressed by the present administration.  It is not to say that Mayor Belen Fernandez sat on the garbage problem during her first two terms in the years 2013 -2019.  On the contrary, she proposed the conversion of tons and tons of trash to something valuable. Remember her Waste To Worth Project that was five years in the making?

It was not easy to bring to reality her proposed non-traditional solution.  We had to go through many stages of compliance with  various government agencies and had to approach several officials to present the intended garbage solution.   Searching for public land that met government conditions for a waste conversion facility alone was such an ordeal.  Endorsement had to be secured from the DENR, the barangay unit had to give its clearance aka social approval, and a Malacanang proclamation had to be issued.

Mayor Belen thought of a public-private partnership  (PPP) vehicle to fund the project so that the City won’t have to cough up with so much public funds. During this time, PPP was a novelty.  Dagupan City was among the first local government units in the Philippines to consider this financing scheme.  The executive had to lobby for the necessary ordinance that will give basis and procedure for the selection of the private companies which are willing to partner with the City government.  Since the Department of  Interior Local Government provided the template draft ordinance on public-private partnership, the Sanggunian was able to instantly consider Mayor Belen’s requested local law and enact the same after a month or two.  Without wasting time, Mayor Belen immediately convened the Selection Committee.

The members of the Committee treaded carefully and followed the procedure to a T.  Various consultations were immediately held in order to firm up the requirements of the City for a waste conversion facility.  Even a DENR  official from Manila came to Dagupan twice to provide guidance to the Committee members.  Because PPP selection is different from the ordinary bidding process, the members encountered and implemented the concept of Swiss Challenge for the first time.  This is a method by which third parties are allowed to make a better offer for a project within a certain period.  The original proponent is given the right to countermatch other superior offers.   Nowadays, Swiss challenge is considered usual in the Philippines because more LGUs now prefer PPP.  The PPP Center also became more visible in guiding our local governments.

The lone proponent was the Sure Global Philippines. Because there was a negotiation stage required by the ordinance, the CEO of Sure Global appeared and lobbied for the relaxation of certain stringent requirements based on their Angeles City experience.  The CEO who was a Stanford graduate tried to persuade us, “Farah, Angeles City understood us that’s why it relaxed its rules,” the engineer said. I retorted, “Dagupan City prefers that you understand us than the other way around.”

During the  negotiation stage, the Selection Committee made sure that Sure Global Philippines agreed to many terms that were beneficial to the City.  It was an on the spot battle of wits.  After the finalization of the proposed terms, the same was published and subjected to a Swiss challenge.

When there was no challenger, Sure Global was selected.  The contract between the City and the Sure Global Philippines was approved by the  Sanggunian.  The only thing left to do was to implement the project.  Fate intervened in 2019 and Mayor Belen lost the elections.  It is sad that despite the gruelling years of efforts, the waste conversion facility project was eventually set aside. The Waste To Worth project became Efforts Gone To Waste!!!

I am glad that Mayor Belen has now come up with an alternative waste disposal scheme with the help of Holcim. Hopefully, these reinvigorated efforts of the Chief Executive to solve the garbage problem won’t be disregarded anew.

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