VIGAN CITY, December 5, 2004 (STAR) By Teddy P. Molina - Thereís money in garbage! Oftentimes quoted but rarely followed, the old cliche on rubbish turning into cash may have found expression in this northern city.

A bioreactor equipment installed here recently does not only boost the cityís solid waste disposal service but also converts biodegradable trash into organic fertilizer, an expert from the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) said.

The equipment, also called Materials Recovery Facility (MRF), was inaugurated last Wednesday by Spanish Ambassador Ignacio Sagaz and city officials led by Mayor Ferdinand Medina and Vice Mayor Francisco Ranches Jr.

Romeo Cabacang, head of the Industrial Technology Development Institute of DOST, said the facility can recycle a maximum of 12 tons of biodegradables daily into six tons of compost. Given the prevailing market price of P3 per kilo of organic fertilizer, he said that the output would earn for the city government P18,000.

He said Viganís MRF is the biggest that DOST has installed in the country so far. But he reminded officials that an organic farming program should be adopted in the farming communities here to sustain the viability of the technology.

The DOST official added that Viganís MRF also beats others for its "environment-friendly" features. "This is much more socially acceptable than the other facilities in the Philippines," he said, adding "it does not emit foul odor."

Ranches who arrived recently from a seminar on solid waste management in Alcala, Spain said the city would soon start an education and information campaign to stress on waste segregation and encourage farmers to go into organic farming.

The MRF is Viganís response to the requirements of RA 9003 which mandates the establishment by local government units of controlled dumpsites and sanitary landfills for garbage. "Open dumpsites will already be banned by Jan. 15, next year," city environment and natural resources officer Glenn Concepcion told The STAR.

Medina said the whole plant including the bioreactor was built from a P9,932,382-grant from the Spanish government. He said that for its waste-to-compost capability, it "will earn additional revenues for the cityŁ" apart from benefiting farmers going into organic farming.

Vigan is largely an agricultural city, with rice and corn as its main crops. It was observed that farmersí availment of cheap organic fertilizer from the compost production of the MRF would boost their income in terms of savings from input expenses.

Sagaz signed the agreement for the funding of the MRF project in behalf of Spain and its Agencia Espanola Cooperacion International (AECI) in March 2002.

"I love Vigan. When Iím here itís as if I am in my home country," he said during the program welcoming him and his party that included AECI director-general Jose Maria Taberne.

Vigan, a world heritage site inscripted by UNESCO, is also known as "Little Madrid" for its rows of centuries-old ancestral houses. It was here where Spanish conquistador Juan de Salcedo established his base which he called Ciudad Fernandina for his Northern Luzon encomienda.

According to Concepcion, Vigan has a daily yield of eight to 10 tons of solid waste which is two to four tons short of the MRFís 12 ton maximum capacity, and an MRF workforce of eight people.

Cabacang noted that the MRF would not be a burden but a boon to the city saying "it can sustain itself and earn its own income to pay for operational and labor costs."

He said the cost of power to operate the bioreactor is "minimal" at P1,200 a month when the plant is operating at full blast.

Sagaz also inaugurated five other major projects which, along with the MRF, he said were funded by Spain. These were the potable water supply phase III project, Raois water pumping station, Mira Hills water reservoir, and two fish hatcheries in San Pedro and Mindoro barangays.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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