Petron moves to resolve settlers’ complaints; to ship ‘ash’ out of Bataan plant
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) will grant Petron Corporation a permit to transport limestone byproducts of its oil refining activities out of its sprawling production complex in Limay, Bataan to put to rest complaints by nearby illegal settlers about supposed ill effects on their health caused by the powdery substance.
In a press briefing, the president of San Miguel Corp.—the parent firm of the country’s largest petroleum refiner and distributor—said Energy Secretary Gina Lopez gave the order for the transport permit to be issued after she was briefed on the situation on Wednesday morning.
“We will immediately move that limestone ash out of there as soon as we receive the permit,” Ramon Ang told reporters in a briefing after his meeting with Lopez. “This is a good solution for us, as we can take this limestone ash straight to our cement plants.”
San Miguel also owns a cement production firm which, Ang explained, benefits from the lime ash byproduct since it can me made into gypsum, an additive needed to prevent the cement from hardening too fast.
“I explained to Secretary Lopez that what we have there is not coal ash, but lime,” he said, explaining that it was impossible for coal to be the cause of nearby residents’ supposed respiratory difficulties because the adjacent San Miguel power plant has pushed back to May 2017 its schedule to start operating using coal to run its turbines.
“The plants are running on diesel right now. There’s no coal,” he said. “So what coal ash are they complaining about?”
Unlike other coal-fired power plants, Ang said San Miguel throws away no waste byproducts since everything is used as raw material for cement production. The ash resulting from the burning of coal is “pozzolanic” in nature and, as such, is also used as a cement production additive.
“We throw away nothing here that can pollute the environment,” he said, adding that the ash was valuable because it was being sold to a sister firm for $100 per ton.
The San Miguel chief also said the skin rashes that residents have been complaining about were determined by local health officials to be scabies, which is an infectious skin disease caused by tick bites.
This, he said, is caused by being in close contact with dogs and livestock, and has nothing to do with the refinery’s powder byproduct.
“Nonetheless, we have health services for the community in a large, well-equipped clinic that they can avail of for free,” he said.
Ang pointed out that the residents—many of whom are informal settlers who encroached on Petron-owned land—have so far refused offers to be relocated to a nearby property.
He added the number of informal settlers swelled in recent years when Petron was conducting a $2-billion upgrade for its “RMP 2” refinery because of the large volume of scrap metal generated by the project.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.