Relocate steel plant out of Bulacan town, bishop urges DENR
CITY OF SAN FERNANDO—Citing health and environmental risks, the bishop of the diocese of Malolos in Bulacan province has asked President Aquino to help convince a private firm to transfer out of Plaridel town what is touted to be the “largest rebar manufacturing facility in the Philippines and the most modern in the world.”
Bishop Jose Oliveros renewed his appeal in a letter to the President last month, saying the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) should deny the application of Del Pilar Steel Inc. (DPSI) for an environmental compliance certificate (ECC) for the steel plant project.
The DENR should instead order DPSI to locate the proposed steel rolling mill plant of its mother company, Steel Asia, to “a more suitable place.”
The Inquirer reached DPSI on Tuesday through its officer, Jon Goyena, but it did not react to issues raised by Oliveros.
The bishop said the proposed plant inside Grand Industrial Estate in Barangay Parulan in Plaridel is within the service area of the Angat-Maasim River Irrigation System, which is right beside irrigated rice fields and households, and within 200 to 500 meters of two public schools.
The late Plaridel Mayor Amando Buhain and his firm, Asian Land Strategis Corp. (ALSC), sold 16 hectares of his estate to DPSI for P434 million in 2013, a copy of a sale contract showed.
“It is no question that the country needs the steel industry, but steel plants should be built away from [irrigated rice fields and heavily populated households], even with state of the art technologies for pollution control,” Oliveros said.
According to him, DPSI has not satisfactorily answered more than 50 technical issues raised by the communities in Parulan.
On its website, Steel Asia called the project “Plaridel Works” and “M7.” It said it expected to commission the plant in late 2016 with an annual capacity of 1.2 million metric tons of rebar.
M7, it said, would use “state-of-the-art and eco-friendly rolling mill technology.” The mill will “feature eco-friendly AC motors, rainwater collection as a water source, zero effluent and zero external oil application and a solar energy power system,” it added.
In the letter, Oliveros informed Mr. Aquino of “existing grave damage to rice fields immediately surrounding the steel mill site due to its premature backfilling and fencing that covered or blocked irrigation farm ditches.”
“The current situation points to the fact that if the project pushes through, especially with its declared expansion plans in its [environmental impact statement] and declared establishment of a ‘steel city’ within the agricultural landscape and land use of Parulan, more rice fields and farming households will be adversely affected,” the bishop said.
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