San Simon dads step up drive vs erring steel firms

Approves ordinance to upgrade steel plants’ pollution devices

SAN SIMON, Pampanga – Taking necessary steps to curtail an impeding massive environmental and health risks among residents of this bustling industrial town, a majority of its Sangguniang Bayan (SB) members have passed and approved an ordinance requiring smelting plants and steel factories to upgrade their “otherwise outmoded air pollution control devices (ACPDs) at the soonest possible time”. 

The steel plants are also required to create contingency plans to manage any failure of the ACPDs and limit the adverse impact on the environment.

Part of the contingency plan in case of ACPD malfunction is shutting down the plant until necessary repairs are completed. 

Amid growing complaints of illnesses among the constituency of San Simon, the municipal council unanimously approved SB Ordinance No. ‘23-003, titled “Strengthening the Modernization of Smelting Metal Scrap in San Simon” on  February 01 that would require smelting plants to immediately rehabilitate and improve their APCDs to make it suitable and appropriate based on the type, size and scale of production activities.

The ordinance stated that these ACPDs shall also be well maintained, and their operation adequately monitored and manned, by personnel who are trained in pollution control system.

The assigned personnel from the municipality shall in turn monitor the amount of smoke emitted from the chimney of the smelting plant to make sure that it shall not be beyond the reasonable limit allowed by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, according to the ordinance.

As a form of incentive to companies who are going to invest, install and modernize the manufacturing of billets attuned to the latest environment-protective technology, they will be given a discount in their Business Tax for three years.

They will also be given a discount on the share of the Municipality on Real Property Tax and other regulatory fees imposed by the Municipality also for three years.

The recently passed council ordinance still needs to be approved and signed by San Simon Mayor Abundio Punsalan, Jr. 

Other measures include sealing of the roof of the structure where the production activities take place to prevent the passage of dust and other fumes during the inevitable malfunctioning of the ACPD.

On the part of the LGU, it should closely monitor any deviation on the steel plant’s commitment in their Environmental Management Plan. 

The installation of Continuous Emission Monitoring System (CEMS) and Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) are also required.

Records and information shall be forwarded to the Office of the Mayor on a regular weekly basis.

Under the ordinance, the steel companies, which will venture into modernization are further encouraged to venture in the use of renewable energy and undertake Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) to fully enjoy the credit of the incentive mentioned above.

The plants were given two years to comply with the ordinance and rehabilitate their APCDs.

Earlier, Melters Steel Corporation and Wan Chiong Steel Corporation have admitted to experiencing “issues” on the operation of their ACPDs, particularly their bag filters, which have resulted to massive air pollution over the past weeks.

The two erring Chinese-owned companies committed to submit a Compliance Action Plan (CAP) to prevent excessive fugitive emissions and dark smoke within two weeks.

The steel companies likewise acknowledged the findings of an investigating team assigned by Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) officials in their respective violations to Republic Act 8749 or the Philippine Clean Air Act.

Pollution Control Officers Mia Portia Joela T. Cabunilas of Wan Chiong and Neil L. Ricohermoso of Melters said both their companies will cease and desist from operations immediately in the event of a breakdown of their ACPDs, and to submit an emission test to be conducted every week for three consecutive weeks immediately after repair of their APCDs, and submit the result every week.