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P6-B steel plant in Bulacan gets DENR go-signal despite protests

/ 12:03 AM March 01, 2016

CITY OF MALOLOS—A P6-billion steel mill project being opposed by church leaders and residents of its host town in Bulacan province has been granted an environmental compliance certificate (ECC) by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

But Del Pilar Steel Inc. (DPSI), a subsidiary of Steel Asia Corp., may not proceed to build its steel rebar manufacturing facility in Plaridel town until it settles the land classification of its 16-hectare property, which is still considered agricultural, according to the ECC issued by Environment Assistant Secretary Juan Miguel Cuna.

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Cuna serves as director of the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB).

DPSI bought the property from Asian Land Strategies Corp., owned by the late Plaridel Mayor Amando Buhain, for P434 million in 2013. The property, located at Grand Industrial Estate in Plaridel’s Barangay Parulan, is the subject of a land conversion request filed in the Department of Agrarian Reform.

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Steel Asia said the DPSI mill project was designed to produce 1.2 million metric tons of steel annually to address the increasing demand for the metal in the country. The firm hopes to operate the plant by the end of the year.

Bishop Jose Oliveros and 142 priests of the Diocese of Malolos have urged President Aquino to order the relocation of the plant. They supported the clamor of Kalikasang Dalisay para sa mga Mamamayan ng Plaridel (Kadamay), a group composed of residents and farmers, which issued a rebuttal of the DPSI environmental impact assessment report as well as the ECC.

In a Feb. 24 letter to Environment Secretary Ramon Paje Jr., Kadamay said the project site “is within the service area of Angat-Maasim Rivers Irrigation System and is still considered agricultural land so it should be nonnegotiable for conversion.”

Eriberto Garcia, Kadamay president, said the ECC was issued prematurely and should be revoked.

The document requires DPSI to implement a comprehensive social development program and to develop and maintain a 7-meter buffer zone along the periphery of the project site with “vegetation cover to enhance the condition of the ecosystem and to serve as noise, vibration and dust buffers.”

“The more critical concern of a buffer zone and a contingency plan for oil spill risk management and the discharge of oil-contaminated runoffs have not been addressed,” Kadamay said.

The ECC also requires DPSI to “institute remedial measures to avert flooding in the immediate vicinities resulting from the siting and project construction,” and to conduct an environmental health impact assessment, the results of which would be submitted to the EMB.

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Moreover, DPSI must secure a water permit from the National Water Resources Board since it requires a huge volume of surface and ground water.

“This project is going to be the biggest steel rolling mill in the Philippines and one of the biggest in Asia but we wish [Paje] to recognize and appreciate that this is going to be one of, if not, the closest to communities, schools and productive rice fields,” Kadamay said.

“Thus, the risk of public health and safety to people, property and agricultural livelihood is extremely high,” it said.

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TAGS: Bulacan, DENR, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Plant, Protests, Steel
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