Govt likely to clear San Miguel and Petron on ash spill allegations

The Environment Department is likely to clear San Miguel Corp. and Petron Corp. of allegations of oil and ash spill at its energy complex in Bataan province, following a clarificatory meeting Wednesday.

Petron president and chief executive Ramon Ang made a presentation with Environment Secretary Regina Lopez and clarified the charges hurled against the company.

Ang said the oil spill happened on July 9 at the Bataan thermal power plant not owned by Petron but by the government. He said the pipeline spill was caused by a contractor of the Public Works Department.

He also dispelled allegations of an ash spill from Petron’s limestone ash pond to the Alangan River. He said the ash pond is located two kilometers away from the river.

“They thought it was coal ash but it’s limestone powder,” Ang said. Limestone ash has been certified  as non-hazardous and is used as raw material for manufacturing cement, he said.

Ang said he asked the Environment Department to grant Petron an ore transport permit to transfer the bottom ash to the cement plants. Bottom ash came from Petron’s 140-megawatt solid fuel power plant in Bataan located alongside the 180,000-barrel-a-day refinery.

“Bottom ash will be brought to the cement plant as raw mix to cook clinker so there will be no waste generated. All CFB [circulating fluidized bed] coal fired plants should not generate bottom ash  fly ash it is needed by the cement plants,” he said.

Lopez expressed her willingness to facilitate soonest the issuance of a permit that would allow Petron to transfer the ash stockpile released from its refinery to a cement plant also located within the Petron Bataan Refinery complex in Limay town.

The Environment Department said residents complained of the volume of ash coming from the sprawling refinery complex that caused some of them to fall ill, prompting the Environmental Management Bureau to issue notices of violation against PBR and SMC Consolidated Power Corp.

Both Petron and SMCCPC are subsidiaries of San Miguel Corp. 

“I will ask [SMC president] Ramon Ang to submit an application to transport the ash, so that we can process it immediately,” Lopez said.

Lopez said she would exert all effort to ensure that the PBR and SMCCPC “will comply with environmental laws and not cause people to suffer.”

“I am sure that Mr. Ang would not do something that would jeopardize a billion-dollar operation. I commit and make sure that you [the community] would be okay,” Lopez said.

Lopez said the DENR would also coordinate with the Department of Health regarding the medical conditions reported by residents. 

The EMB, in an order dated January 9, directed SMCCPC to explain why the environmental compliance certificate for its Limay facility should not be revoked or cancelled due to the ash spill. The company has until Jan. 13 to submit its reply.

The EMB issued a separate order to PBR to “stop from dumping newly-generated bottom ash” in the area while the ash spill incident was being investigated. With Anna Leah E. Gonzales

Topics: Department of Environment and Natural Resources , San Miguel Corp. , Petron Corp. , oil and ash spill allegations , Bataan province
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