Ash from coal-fired plants leaves Bataan residents sick

Primy Cane, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 06 2017 09:45 PM

BATAAN- Residents of Limay town in Bataan are complaining of the ash residue of coal-fired power plants which have made them ill and covered their houses and plants.

Operators of the coal-fired power plants in Bataan admitted that the ash covering the houses of residents in Sitio Pexsite, Limay may have come from their dumpsite. 

On Thursday night, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) ordered the plants of Petron and San Miguel corporations to stop operations because residents in the area are saying the ash is making them ill. 

“Pag umaandar po yan parang masakit ang ulo mo parang hirap na hirap kang umano iyung lalamunan mo para kang dadahak,” resident Alvin Purak complained.

On Friday, executives of San Miguel Corporation invited media to visit their "ash ponds" or the areas where waste ash is stored. 

Engineers revealed that the two plants -- Petron and San Miguel Corporation produce more than 250 tons of waste ash daily.

Petron refining division Vice President Freddie Yumang said the company doesn't have a permanent ash pond for their waste.

Even though they have the required permits from the DENR, the local government has denied them permits to build it. 

“It’s really a very difficult situation but we are really hoping na bigyan na kami ng permiso na gawin yung talagang gawin yung dumpsite don na ash pond para magkaroon na kami ng lugar don, yung tamang lugar, yung permanent na lugar na long term, taon ang bibilangin mo bago mo mapuno yun para nga mawala na yung ganitong sitwasyon,” Yumang said.

The Petron plant was also recently mandated by the DENR to stop dumping ash into its ash pond amid complaints that it was contaminating the nearby river and had to resort to using the San Miguel plant's temporary ash pond, which is not yet fully operational. 

The San Miguel plant does not have the same facilities as Petron. 

Ash waste needs to be watered down several times a day to prevent it from drying up and having sediments carried away by the wind—causing the ash fall.

The San Miguel ash pond has yet to have a water pipe and does not have sprinklers like the Petron ash pond.

Operators of the coal-fired plants vowed to water the waste ash more often and to check on the community.

“It's possible that the ash came from here. We will water the ash more,” Yumang said.

DENR Secretary Gina Lopez has already issued a cease and desist order for the plants.

But neither of the plants have formally received the order and their operations are still ongoing.