LIMAY, Bataan: The coal power plant here has stopped dumping bottom ash in any site outside the oil refinery complex, following orders from the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB), a consultant of Petron and San Miguel Corp. (SMC) said.
SMC and Petron consultant for refinery and plant operations, Jaime Santos, informed the multi-party monitoring team (MMT) of this development at a meeting presided over by EMB Region 3 director Lormelyn Claudio on Monday.
Claudio issued the order to stop the dumping of coal ash in two areas – Petron Limay Terminal and SMC site – last Friday after residents complained of ashfall which has been bothering them since December 26.
The EMB director said the coal plant can only dispose of its waste in an area approved by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and only after they have mixed it with soil to lessen its corrosive element.
“The bottom ash is now being brought to Northern Cement factory in Sison, Pangasinan after it has been mixed with soil to lower its ph level,” Santos said.
He said that the power plant has stopped dumping bottom ash in the two sites mentioned in compliance with the EMB order.
Santos added that as a long-term solution, they will build an ash pond within the company’s 27-hectare property in the town.
Limay Mayor Lilvir Roque said that while the DENR has yet to approve a dump site for the bottom ash, the coal plant will not be permitted to dump any kind of ash waste in the town.
Alvin Pura, one of the affected residents, told The Manila Times they have been voicing their opposition to the coal power plant’s operation since 2012. They are thankful that at least their problem with the dumping of bottom ash has finally been given attention.
However, he expressed concern over the absence of a long-term solution. “What will happen to us? What will it do to the community? It’s true that we don’t own the lot but we are humans who must be given importance,” he said.
Derek Cabe of the Coal-free Bataan Movement said about 500 residents are affected by pollution in the area, with almost half of this number afflicted with frequent fever, colds, headache, skin rashes and hypertension.
Before the MMT special meeting, Cabe and group of anti-coal activists and villagers affected by the ashfall wearing face masks held in a rally in front of Limay municipal hall.
Meanwhile, the provincial health office (PHO) on Tuesday said they are still conducting a study and gathering data to verify if the complained illnesses, such as upper respiratory tract infection, are indeed caused by coal ash.
PHO chief Rosanna Bucchan said the ashfall may be one of the causes but other factors have to be considered why a patient frequently suffers a cold, fever or pneumonia.