San Simon, Pampanga —Local authorities here have sounded the alarm over what they perceived as a looming environmental and health crisis posed by at least five steel plants operating within their localities.
Attempts to get the side of the owners of the steel factories proved futile as they clammed up on the issue.
Executives of five major emitters of harmful particles and air contaminants, particularly in Barangay San Isidro here — WanChiong Steel Corp., Real Steel Corp., Altima Empire Steel Corp., SKK Steel Corp, and Melters Steel Corp. – did not reply to questions posted by the Standard on their steel plants’ activities.
Photos and video clips showing excessive smoke from their facilities were aired on local and regional news channels and websites.
San Simon Association of Barangay Captains president and ex-officio councilor Randie Flores, in a press conference, warned about alleged high mortality rate and breakout of pulmonary
diseases due to daily emissions of toxic substances pollution and contaminants from the steel plants along Quezon road in this municipality.
“Almost 30 percent of our barangay’s total population has health issues due to the heavy pollutions brought about by mostly Chinese owned steel smelting and manufacturing plants”. Flores revealed.
He said even before he took over as barangay chairman in San Isidro, the cited steel corporations have been the subjects of complaints by residents in the area.
Flores recalled that in 2020, he filed a complaint against Melters Steel Corp for non-compliance of their pollution device control (PDC), but after the corporation complied with the proper use of their PDC.
“But for the past weeks now, Melters Steel factory has been spewing thick smoke and harmful air pollutants and we are now preparing necessary legal measures to abate this irresponsible business operations of the steel company” Flores stressed.
Another steel factory in the area, Wanchiong Steel Corp has been blatantly spewing even larger air pollutants on a daily basis. “These must all be stopped at the soonest possible time”. Flores said.
Flores said factors that contribute to the harmful emissions might be negligence on the part of the steel corporation’s outmoded and improper use of their Pollution Control Devices (PCD’s) as we have found out long before.
Flores said some factories have lessened their smoke emission by using an electric arc furnace, a non-emitting pollution device. But a number of them are still using induction technology, which is an old model, in their factories, which cause the smoke, Flores said.
“The emission is not totally cut, but with the use of the electric arc furnace it helps a lot to control pollution being spread in the community,” Flores added.
Flores recently sponsored an ordinance, titled as ”Ordinance No.’23-003 – An Ordinance Abandoning the traditional technology on Smelting Steel Scrap and Modernizing the Production of Steel Billets attuned to the Environment-Protective Latest Technology within San Simon, Pampanga” which has passed 2nd reading already.
He said during the time of the late Mayor Leonora Wong, she convened a regular tripartite team inspection quarterly. The members or the team consists of the DENR, LGU and Barangay Officials.
Flores, however, said the present administration of Mayor Abundio Punsalan Jr., has not convened the tripartite team for the welfare of constituents here, particularly five barangays that are greatly affected here, including San Isidro, Sta. Monica, San Pablo Proper, San Pablo Libutad and Dela Paz.
Flores also appealed to Mayor Punsalan to support and approve the ordinance to combat hazardous pollutants that are painting the San Simon skies black.
“Sama sama po tayo protektahan natin ang kalusugan ng ating mga kabalen kasama ng kalikasan,” he said.