DENR stands by report on coal pollution
ILOILO CITY – The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Western Visayas is standing by its report alleging that the Semirara Mining Corp. (SMC) violated environmental laws by polluting the waters and marine resources of Semirara Island.
Bienvenido Lipayon, regional director of the DENR Environment Management Bureau (EMB), defended his recommendation to the DENR’s Pollution and Adjudication Board (PAB) to file a pollution case against the company and issue a cease-and-desist order (CDO) on its coal washing plant.
The SMC has threatened to file criminal and administrative charges against Lipayon for allegedly filing false reports against the company.
In a statement issued by its lawyer Romulo San Juan, the SMC accused Lipayon of being hostile to the company because it opposed his request to replace the chairman of a multiparty committee that oversees an environment fund put up by the SMC.
“I’m not aware that they will be filing a case against me. But my report is not erroneous or false,” Lipayon told the Philippine Daily Inquirer in a telephone interview on Saturday.
He said the report was based on the complaint filed by residents of Barangay Alegria, one of the three villages of the island, and the results of meetings of the Multi-Partite Monitoring Team (MMT).
The MMT, composed of representatives of the DENR, SMC, residents and local government units, ensures that the operations comply with conditions of the environmental certificate of compliance (ECC) issued by the DENR for the company to operate.
In his recommendation, Lipayon noted that there was “prima facie evidence” against the company on the “disposal of coal material and tailings into the Suja Creek and to the sea.”
The EMB also recommended the issuance of a P45,000 fine against the company for violating three conditions of its ECC.
SMC has denied that its operations and its coal washing plant have caused the siltation. It said typhoons in recent years have caused the run-off from old coal stockpiles.
Ricardo Calderon, DENR Western Visayas regional executive director, said it would be up to the PAB to rule on the merits of the allegation against SMC.
“[Lipayon] is just doing his job. And it’s normal for us working in government to be subjects of complaints,” Calderon told the Inquirer on Monday.
Calderon said due process was observed in the complaint filed by the residents and the issuance of a notice of violation against the SMC.
A group of environmentalists and scientists who conducted an inspection on April 16-17 also confirmed the coal siltation.