SAN SIMON – The local government here, together with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) recently ordered the temporary closure of a smelting plant located along Quezon road in this town.

This after scores of residents from Barangay San Isidro and nearby villages aired their complaints against Real Steel Corporation which is allegedly emitting hazardous smoke.

Former Mayor Rodrigo ‘Digos’ Canlas said the residents are concerned about their health and the environment which are greatly affected by the plant’s operation.

In their grievance letters, the villagers and are requesting the local and DENR officials to conduct an investigation on the pollution the plant releases to the air around the area.

Canlas, together with DENR-3 Multi-partite Monitoring Team Chief Elisa Dimaliwat, met with the management of Real Steel Corporation to discuss the residents'' complaints.

“We asked them kung ano yung mga planned measures nila to address the concerns, but until then, hindi sila pwedeng magoperate,” Canlas stressed.

He added that the smelting plant will not be given a permit to operate until the management can secure clearances from the DENR’s Environmental Management Bureau.

Dimaliwat, for her part, said that the DENR compelled the Real Steel Corporation to rehabilitate and upgrade their air pollution control device which is seen to address the residents' complaints.

“Nagmeeting na kami nung December with the management and pinagcommit namin sila na upgrade yung air pollution control device nila. So far, narehab na daw nila at iinspect din natin,” she noted.

Together with the a third-party air pollutant control tester, took air samples inside and around the smelting plant to check its quality.

Dimaliwat also disclosed that their agency has not yet issued the environment clearances of the said smelting plant over the past few years due to the complaints.

“May mga records naman kami na pumapasa sila sa air pollutant test kaya lang dahil nga may reklamo, hindi namin sila binibiyan,” she said.

“In the first place, this area is classified as industrial zone. Dapat wala talagang nakatira sa paligid nito,” she added.

‘Compliant’ with environmental laws

Amid complaints by residents, the management of Real Steel Corporation has stressed that they are complying with the environmental requirements of the DENR.

The steel corporation aired its side during the inspection conducted by the local and DENR officials as part of the government power to regulate factories around their jurisdiction, especially along Quezon road here.

Real Steel Corporation General Manager Melody Arellano said they have been implementing measures to address the concerns of the residents and comply with the requirements of the government.

She disclosed that the management have been spending millions of pesos to rehabilitate and upgrade their air pollution control device and purchase additional facilities to lessen the smoke coming out from their plant.

“Simula nung una kaming nag-meeting ng December, dun na kami nagfocus. Yung buong December namin diyan muna namin ginugol pra mafigure out kung paano mabawasan ang usok,” she said.

She explained that their personnel closed the ventilations of the factory and installed blowers from the surface and ceiling of the shop to let the smoke circulate around the area instead of venting.

Arellano added that they also removed the chimney at the front of the plant and put six exhaust fans as replacement.

Aside from improving the old pollution device, she added that they also bought a new one with a water sprinkler to help dissolve particles in the air.

Asked if the workers will not suffer from the new device scheme they will be utilizing, the general manager said that the blowers from the surface will drift the smoke away from their workstations.

Arellano said they welcome all inspection activities of the DENR and local government to prove that they are implementing measures to comply with the requirements.

She also expressed hopes that they can soon secure the permit to operate and resume their business for the benefit of employees.