MANILA, December 23, 2003  (STAR) By Perseus Echeminada - Several years ago, the stench of methane from decaying garbage in the Payatas dump was so strong it permeated the entire Batasan Hills and sometimes seeped into the air-conditioning system of residents in the area.

The foul odor was a constant reminder of poverty and disease, and even death. The accumulation of methane under the mountain of garbage caused concern among residents, who worried about respiratory illnesses and the risk of a massive explosion from the gas.

But today, the foul odor emanating from the accumulated methane is being extracted, contained and converted to generate electricity in the 12-hectare facility.

Quezon City Mayor Feliciano Belmonte Jr. and city officials opened yesterday the one megawatt-hour electricity system using methane extracted from the dumpsite.

President Arroyo was invited as guest of honor and speaker.

Belmonte described the lighting up of the old dumpsite as a signal event that would lead to the reduction of poverty among scavenger families in the area.

Retired Army colonel James Jaymalin, chief of the Payatas Operation Group, said the energization of the old Payatas site will benefit at least 33 scavenger families who organized themselves into 12 various organizations. Each family earns an average P250 to P300 a day.

The Quezon City government had earlier converted the Payatas dumpsite in compliance with the Ecological and Solid Waste Management Act, which extended the life of the garbage dump for at least two years.

The city government initiated the methane extraction project with the Philippine National Oil Co. (PNOC) last year.

Jaymalin said the extraction of the methane is aimed at containing the gas buildup and prevent future accidents in the area. Methane is a highly combustible gas.

"But the PNOC found out that there is enough gas to generate electricity within the area, so the city government decided to tap the energy," he said.

The Quezon City government is the first local government in the country to extract methane and use it to generate electricity.

Earlier the city government also signed a memorandum of agreement with Union Cement for the collection of used tires embedded in the heaps of garbage in the dumpsite. The tires will be used to process high quality cement.

With the electricity switched on, the image of Payatas as purveyor of poverty, disease and death will soon be a thing of the past. And the strong stench of methane gas from the decaying garbage is now a harbinger of better days for the impoverished residents.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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