DENR chief misled on Bataan oil spill
The chief of the country’s biggest conglomerate believes Environment Secretary Gina Lopez may have been misinformed about an oil spill adjacent to Petron Corp.’s refinery in Bataan which prompted her to say that she would issue a cease-and-desist order against the petroleum giant.
In an interview with the Inquirer, the president of San Miguel Corp.—the parent firm of the country’s largest oil refiner and distributor—said the presence of Petron personnel at the clean up site of the decommissioned Limay power plant was due only to the company acting as a “good neighbor” wanting to assist in containing the oil spill.
“That old power plant was owned by National Power Corp. and it was foreclosed by the Bataan local government unit for nonpayment of taxes. As they were dismantling it, an oil leak occurred and Petron volunteered to help clean it up,” SMC president Ramon Ang said.
“We don’t own that plant in question. You can check the records of PSALM,” he said, referring to the government-run Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. “Why were we at the site? We just wanted to help with the clean up efforts.”
Ang said he had already communicated these facts to Environment Secretary Gina Lopez, who has long been vocal about her opposition to coal-fired power plants and the mining industry, among others.
“Perhaps the information that reached Secretary Lopez was still incomplete,” he added.
San Miguel and Limay Mayor Lilvir Roque had been exchanging correspondences about the issue as early as August 2016 soon after the oil spill at the decommissioned Bataan thermal occurred in July 2016.
“First of all, we would like to point out that the spill incident was caused by a former employee of the contractor engaged by the Department of Public Works and Highways to undertake sewage works in the area,” Ang said in his reply. “Nevertheless, Petron has helped and will continue to help in addressing its effects.”
Regarding the ash byproducts that have been the subject of complaints from local informal settlers living on Petron’s property, Ang told Roque that no less than the Department of Environment and Natural Resources had certified that the ash was “inert or benign.”
“Nevertheless, it was recommended that Petron construct a retaining wall to ensure that the ash in the Petron Limay terminal area does not reach the Alangan River,” he said. “As a preventive measure, we have put up earthen dikes. This measure was done even as we are planning to construct a permanent retaining wall to make the community feel safe.”
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