MORE than 100 employees of the Multifarms Agro-Industrial Development Corp. fear for their employment status as the facility faces possible closure.
This as the Environment Management Bureau 7 thru Legal Officer Unalee Monares said Multifarms will face closure if it fails to pay the long overdue environmental violation fine of P14.5 million.
Multifarms, a large-scale piggery farm located in Barangay Sangat, San Fernando town, Cebu was warned years ago of its environmental violations and a case was already endorsed to the Pollution Adjudication Board (PAB) for action, the EMB official said.
But the company managed to skirt authorities up until Feb. 26.
Loss of jobs
Nilo Dublin, an employee of the farm for more than 21 years, is distraught as the job that provides for his wife and six children may be taken away from him.
“Subo kaayu palandungon nga pananglit masira gyud ni, mawad-an tag panginabuhi. Murag, sakit bitaw? Di man gyud nako kapug-ngan kay sa ing-aning sitwasyuna, ni-a gyud nagsandig akong pamilya gikan sa una hangtod karon,” shared Dublin while getting emotional.
(It’s saddening to hear that if ever this facility will shut down, I’ll lose my livelihood. It hurts, you know? I can’t help getting emotional because my family has relied on this company for support ever since.)
Marlyn Langa, another employee of the piggery, said at present, there are at least 13,000 pigs in the farm that will have to be taken care of.
Joey Abarquez, 34, one of the maintenance staff, said the company made sure it has not violated laws and used its waste treatment facility regularly to ensure the water disposed does not have solid pig wastes.
He said the waste goes through a five-step filtering process. First, they contain the pigs’ waste in a biogas lagoon. During this step, the gas emitted from the wastes is extracted as this will be used to burn pigs when they perish.
After gas has been fully taken out, the wastes then travel into the second step wherein solids are made sure to settle down, leaving the water with less solids. According to Abarquez, who has been working for the facility for three years now, they make sure to remove the settled solids at least three times a day. These are then left to dry which will turn into fertilizers.
From the second filtering procedure, the water continues to undergo two more steps. On the fifth stage is the disposal of the “cleaned” water.
On Wednesday, Feb. 27, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) 7 filed before the Provincial Prosecutor’s Office a complaint for violation of Sec. 107 of the Philippine Fisheries Code and Republic Act 9275 or the Clean Water Act of 2004 against Multifarms’ owners and officials.
NBI-Environmental Crime Division for Inter-Agency Support (ECD) lawyer Czar Eric Noquis said untreated waste direct from the piggery farm was dumped to the sea passing through the pipes set up by Multifarms.
Last Feb. 26, a composite team led by NBI-ECD served a search warrant against Mulfifarms.
The composite team was composed of NBI, Coast Guard Division Central Visayas (CGDCV), Department of Public Works and Highways and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (Bfar).
Bfar Director Alfeo Piloton confirmed that Multifarms has polluted the sea, endangering marine life and public health based on the water analysis findings they conducted.
He said the ammonia and phosphate from the sample of San Fernando sea water are above the standard levels set by the law. Their findings were submitted to the NBI to support its filing of charges.
Multifarms owner and president Santiago Tanchan III, Rosalio Aguanta, manager, and maintenance officers’ Jayson Fritz Aguanta and Jeramil Sabala were arrested after they were caught in the act of dumping wastewater into the municipal waters of San Fernando.
The DPWH assisted the team in destroying the pipes used to dispose the untreated piggery waste water to the sea.
DPWH 7 Director Edgar Tabacon said it was the NBI that requested equipment like dump truck, generator set and jack hammer.
“The pipeline leading to the sea is subject to a search warrant that is why we cut it off. So it's safe to say this corporation can't discharge its waste to the sea," NBI-ECD lawyer Czar Eric Noquis said.
With the drainage system destroyed, Noqui is confident Multifarms cannot operate again.
He is also confident the case will go to court even if Chan and company can bail themselves out.
“..this corporation is involved in dumping of waste, untreated waste to the municipal waters of San Fernando and that they are dumping these wastes without the necessary permits from regulating agency, particulary from the DENR-EMB and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources,” Noqui said.
At the Prosecutor's Office, Chan and his staff declined to comment while they wait for a copy of the complaint and advise from their counsel.
The piggery was alleged to be operating without permit from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources 7 since the 1980s.
When asked why it took years for EMB 7 to run after Multifarms, Monares said they already endorsed the issue to PAB several years ago.
If Multifarms will still not pay the fine, Monares said it would be the PAB chaired by Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Roy Cimatu who will decide whether to close the piggery operation or not.
Multifarm is given another 15 days to pay the fine.
Despite the destruction of the pipes, operations continue at the water treatment facility in Sitio Magtalisay commonly known as "Sitio Baho" (bad smell) in Barangay Sangat.
Wastes are still dumped into the canal which, eventually, exits to the sea.
Francis Dela Serna, 43 years old and a resident of Barangay Sangat, said the stench coming from the piggery is not as pungent as it was before when the tubes weren’t built.
For Thelma Inad, owner of Fireplace Restaurant which is located across the facility, said the stench coming from the pigs’ waste affect her business every now and then especially if strong winds blow down from the treatment facility.
“Naa gyu’y uban customers nga ig naog nila gikan sa ilang sakyanan para mukaon unta, mamalhin nalang kay grabe gyud ang baho usahay”.
(There are customers who immediately go back inside their cars after stepping out to eat. They prefer to eat someplace else because of the foul odor.)
Most of San Fernando officials who were sought in the area were not around to comment on the issue regarding the piggery.
Lt. JG Mike Encina of CGDCV said the Marine Environmental Protection Unit (Mepu) in coordination with Coast Guard Station (CGS) Cebu will likewise file appropriate charges against Multifarm owners and officials for violation of Presidential Decree (PD) 979 for polluting the sea.
For their part, Department of Agriculture (DA) 7 Director Marina Hermoso and Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) 7 Director Asteria Caberte both said any closure of Multifarms will not affect supply because of prominent pork dealers. / AZLG OF SUPERBALITA CEBU / ROMAYNE DANIELLE RIVER / EOB