BY GILBERT P. BAYORAN
The San Carlos Bioenergy Inc. (SCBI) in San Carlos City, Negros Occidental, temporarily ceased operations on Feb. 19, due to environmental concerns.
Mayor Renato Gustilo, in his letter to the SCBI, noted a series of incidents of water discoloration along the coastal waters of Sitio Maloloy-on in Brgy. Punao, San Carlos City, due to its wastewater discharges.
Gustilo added that while specific mitigating measures were undertaken by the SCBI, such initiatives are not enough to cushion the impact of the water pollution on the residents of San Carlos City.
Evidences of water pollution, including footage, were gathered by the City Planning and Development Coordinator’s Office, Bantay Katunggan of the Coastal Resource Management of the City Environment Management Office, Eco-Zone Multi-Partite Monitoring Team, and City Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office.
Based on the results of their findings, Gustilo strongly advised the SCBI to temporarily cease operations until it settles the recurring issues as soon as possible, or else, the city government will recommend that the Environment Management Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources issue a cease-and-desist order.
Engineer Arthur Batomalaque, senior environment management specialist of CEMO, said that they have already referred the recurring incidents of water discoloration, foul smell, and other environmental issues committed by the SCBI to the Pollution Adjudication Board of the DENR, adding that the company was already penalized.
Batomalaque said only the coastal waters were greatly affected by the effluent from the plant. He said that the local groundwater wells remain unsullied, based on the continuous monitoring of the MMT eco-zone locators, including testing at accredited labs.
Representatives of SCBI are expected to meet and discuss the environmental issues with Gustilo.
Melvin Maglayon of CRM-CEMO, and conservation fellow of the Fishforever program of the city, said any industrial waste that reaches the sea is very harmful, because pollutants can lower dissolved oxygen level and cause fish kill.
Maglayon warned that harmful chemicals may affect the fragile coastal system, reduce the catch of fishermen, and will have an impact on tourism, if the pollutants reach Sipaway Island, that is a favorite tourist destination in San Carlos City. SCBI owns and operates an integrated fuel bioethanol distillery and power co-generation facility. It produces and sells anhydrous fuel grade ethanol to local gasoline retailers, and produces and delivers renewable energy from the sugarcane by-product for export to electric cooperatives in the Philippines.*