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DENR-EMB moves to curb massive pollution in San Simon

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO — To avert the impending health and environment crisis in this municipality, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Environmental Management Bureau (DENR-EMB) regional head ordered EMB personnel to conduct air sampling and wastewater sampling tests in two smelting and steel plants in San Simon.

The order came in the heels of a 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 continue to affect at least five barangay in San Simon as of this writing.

Earlier, Municipal Councilor and Association of Barangay Captains chair Randie Flores, together with his colleagues in the municipal council, aired their concerns about the continuous 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.

In an earlier press briefing with reporters, Flores disclosed a high mortality rate and emergence of pulmonary and related diseases triggered largely by daily emissions of highly toxic air pollution and contaminants from several steel plants along Quezon road in this municipality.

“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 that even before he assumed as barangay chair in San Isidro, these steel corporations have been the subjects of complaints from residents in the area.

Accordingly, 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 (PCDs) as they had found out long before.

Flores recently sponsored an ordinance, titled “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 already passed 2nd reading.

He said during the time of the late Mayor Leonora Wong, she convened a regular tripartite team inspection quarterly. The members or the team consists of the DENR, LGU and Barangay Officials.

Flores, however, said the present administration of Mayor Abundio Punsalan Jr., has not convened the tripartite team for the welfare of constituents here, particularly in the five barangays that are greatly affected which include San Isidro, Sta. Monica, San Pablo Proper, San Pablo Libutad and Dela Paz.

Flores also appealed to Mayor Punsalan to support and approve the ordinance to combat hazardous pollutants that are painting the San Simon skies black.

“Sama sama po tayo protektahan natin ang kalusugan ng ating mga kabalen kasama ng kalikasan,” he said.