San Fernando City- To avert the impending health and environment crisis in this municipality, the DENR Regional head ordered Environment Management Bureau (EMB) personnel to conduct air sampling and wastewater sampling tests in two smelting and steel plants in San Simon.
The order came on the heels of reported massive air pollution being spewed on a daily basis for the past weeks by Wan Chiong Steel Corp. and Melters Steel Corp.
The air particles and pollutants reportedly continue to affect at least 6 barangay in San Simon.
Local authorities earlier 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.
Municipal councilor and barangay Randie Flores, together with his colleagues in the municipal council aired their concern about the continous degradation of air quality in many barangays posing imminent health risks to their constituency.
In a mission order signed by EMB Region 3 director Wilson Trajeco, he assigned a team from the EMB and one representative from the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office to conduct the site investigation.
This, according to Trajeco, is “in the interest of the service and in view of the strict implementation of RA 8749 otherwise known as the Philippine Clean Air Act of 1999.”
Under the Order, the team shall validate the veracity of information stated in the incident report of Wan Chiong Steel Corp. dated January 12, 2023 as regards the maintenance/repair of their corresponding air pollution control devices and the presence of fugitive emissions.
The team shall report the findings, and observations within 72 hours after the investigation and communicate the proceedings and summary of findings to the complainant, the DENR 3, and PENRO Pampanga in accordance with the existing laws, rules and regulations.
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.
“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.