San Simon steel plants under probe anew

SAN SIMON - The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) started investigating over the weekend the high air pollution levels allegedly caused by the operations of three huge steel smelting plants located in Barangay San Isidro in this town.

The inspection, which started Friday, was personally ordered by DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu to prove the study released by a labor and environmental group accusing Wan Chiong Steel Corporation, Melters Steel Corporation, and Real Steel Corporation of being sources of air pollution which is detrimental to the environment and public health.

Cimatu’s order stemmed from the report released by labor rights group Philippine Association of Free Labor Unions (PAFLU) and environmental group Clean Air Philippines Movement Inc. (Capmi) stating that the three smelting plants, along with Metro Dragon Steel Corporation in Caloocan and Mighty Steel Corporation in Davao City have exceeded the maximum level of air quality set by the World Health Organization.

Based on the results released by CAPMI, at least 11 of 12 stations measured total suspended particulates (TSP) that were higher than the standard 300 ug/Ncm (micrograms per normal cubic meter of air) per 60 minutes.

It exceeded the healthy guideline value for TSP at 230 ug/Ncm set by the government through the Philippine Clean Air Act of 1999.

According to the World Health Organization, particulates are also said to be the deadliest form of air pollutants as these are able to enter the lungs and blood stream that may lead to permanent DNA mutations, heart attack and premature death.

A government team consisting of personnel from the national offices of the DENR and Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) is now leading the investigation and bound to get its own samples in and around steel plants to prove the veracity of reports.

“Given the veracity of the allegations, the investigation must be completed as quickly as possible so that we can take immediate measures to address the problem and, if necessary, hold these companies accountable for their pollution,” Cimatu said in a statement.

The DENR-3 have earlier issued notices of violations and cease and desist orders on the three steel plants but have resumed operations after installing additional antipollution devices to comply with the requirements of the agency.

As of press time, Real Steel Corporation is the lone steel plant which released a statement to disprove the alleged study conducted by the labor and environmental groups.

“These claims are very far from truth. Our products undergo comprehensive testing and careful selection in order to ensure that we only produce high quality steel in accordance with the Philippine standards. As a matter of fact, Real Steel Corporation is one of the very few industrial companies who are issued a permit to operate after successfully passing the strict and rigorous tests conducted by the DENR,” Real Steel Corporation Pollution Control Officer Cyril Hilario told SunStar Pampanga.

Hilario also underscored that Real Steel Corporation is the only smelting plant in the country that has stand-by units of air pollution devices which serve as filters to ensure that no polluted air will come out to the environment.
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