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Health crisis looms in San Simon

SAN SIMON, Pampanga — There may be an impending large-scale environment and health crisis among a majority of its residents here, after a city councilor and barangay official in this town expressed alarm over the harmful emissions from some steel manufacturing facilities in this town.

In a press briefing with reporters, San Simon Association of Barangay Captains President and ex-officio Councilor Randie 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 identified five major emitters of harmful particles and air contaminants particularly in Barangay San Isidro as WanChiong Steel Corp., Real Steel Corp., Altima Empire Steel Corp., SKK Steel Corp, and Melters Steel Corp.

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

Flores narrated that in 2020, he filed a complaint against Melters Steel Corp for non-compliance of their pollution device control (PDC). He later filed an affidavit of desistance after the corporation complied with the proper use of their PDC.

“But for the past weeks now, Melters Steel factory has been spewing thick smoke and harmful air pollutants and we are now preparing necessary legal measures to abate this irresponsible business operations of the steel company,” Flores stressed.

Another steel factory in the area, Wanchiong Steel Corp., has been blatantly spewing even larger air pollutants on a daily basis. “These must all be stopped at the soonest possible time,” Flores said,

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 (PCD’s) as they had found out long before.

Flores said some factories have lessened their smoke emission by using an electric arc furnace, a non-emitting pollution device. But a number of them are still using in their factories induction technology, an old model, which causes the smoke, Flores said.

“The emission is not totally cut, but with the use of the electric arc furnace it helps a lot to control pollution being spread in the community,” Flores added.

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.