The Jaime V. Ongpin Foundation Inc. (JVOFI) started out as the social development arm of Benguet Corp., the country’s oldest mining company. Established in December 1980 and formerly known as the Benguet Corp Foundation Inc., the private, non-stock, nonprofit organization is geared towards enterprise development, ecological enhancement, internal-capacity building, and resource management. One of its major ongoing projects is biosoil utilization, which it is undertaking in support of the environmental conservation and rehabilitation effort in Baguio City and its environs.
According to Rhoda Fe D. Buenavista, JVOFI’s ecological enhancement manager, the foundation had already been discussing Baguio’s solid waste management problem as early as 1998. “Sixty percent of the city’s garbage is biodegradable, so we decided to first address the bulk of the problem,” she says. “We asked ourselves, ‘Where are these biodegradable wastes coming from?’ The answer was that every day, the city’s public market alone dumps 20 tons of waste in the form of vegetable trimmings and meat and fish innards.”
The foundation thus came up with the idea of building a compost plant, which it knew would require a lot of manpower, money, equipment, and skills. To start with, in 1999, it made an agreement with the Foundation for a Sustainable Society Inc. (FSSI) and the local government of Baguio City to undertake the projected biosoil program. The agreement called for FSSI to provide technical assistance, for the local government to provide financial assistance, and for the JVOFI to take charge of capability building, the establishment of systems, and the acquisition of funding from outside sources.
JVOFI then established partnerships with various donor institutions in the Philippines and abroad. The Japanese Embassy, for one, provided a P1.9- million grant for the construction of the compost plant’s storage building and laboratory as well as for the fabrication of the conveying system, crusher, hopper, and mixer. The Canada Fund for Local Initiatives provided about P500,000 to fund the community organization effort and to run an alternative livelihood training program for waste pickers. For its part, the Philippine German Foundation provided P250,000 for the purchase of the conveying system.
At the 2.5-hectare city dumpsite in Irisan, which is now the biggest and most populated barangay in Baguio, an area of 300 square meters was allotted for the composting plant. The initial operation and pilot testing started in 2003 until the highly mechanized composting plant became fully operational a year later.
The biodegradable wastes coming from the Baguio City public market are delivered directly to the plant, where the workers remove non-biodegradable wastes like plastics as they pass on a conveyor belt. The biodegradable waste is then mixed in a big tank using the Silo technology, and is processed into compost by enzymes.
After a certain waiting period, the compost is sun-dried and packed. In a day, the plant can process more than five metric tons of waste, and because the process is mechanized, only six workers are needed to run it. The compost product, Biosoil, has been certified by the Bureau of Soils of the Department of Agriculture as a fertilizer with a total NPK content (nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium) of 7.9. It is like very fine, dry soil.
“Biosoil is very good because it does not contain any pathogenic waste and it yields very good results,” Buenavista says.
Ester C. Liberato, the Biosoil program officer, says that Linda Ulba, a farmer from Shilan, La Trinidad, in Benguet, mixes 10 percent of Biosoil with 90 percent soil for her crops, and replenishes the Biosoil every two months. Another farmer, Joe Soliven from Ilocos shifted to organic fertilizers in 2004, achieving an increase in his palay crop production from 908 kilos to 1,234 kilos two years later.