BY GILBERT P. BAYORAN
With the upgrading of facilities of the Victorias Milling Company distillery plant in Brgy. Purisima, Manapla, Negros Occidental, the management said that it has already addressed environment issues raised by local residents.
The claims of the VMC distillery plant officials were supported by testimonies of residents, who previously complained of foul odor emanating from the plant, during a recent forum held in Brgy. Purisima, that was attended by Mayor Manuel Escalante, and the media.
Stressing that the company allotted significant millions of capital expenditures towards resolution of environmental problems, VMC distillery plant manager Sherwin Bacanto announced during the forum that they are no longer utilizing the natural lagoon as part of their operations.
“The distillery is totally disconnected to the natural lagoons,” Bacanto said, apparently referring to a creek in the area.
He added that they also started the rehabilitation of the natural lagoon, as a sign of their commitment to the environment, which they are targeting to convert into a fishpond.
There is now zero-waste discharge to waterways, and recent visits proved that there is no more odor emanating from the distillery, Bacanto said.
The VMC-operated distillery plant has been accused for alleged violation of the Clean Air Act, or Republic Act 8749, and the Clean Water Act, or RA 9275.
Some residents claimed during the forum that they were tricked into signing the petition for the closure of the plant.
In a blotter recorded in the barangay, they claimed that their signatures in the petition were forged, while others revealed that they were asked to sign a blank attendance sheet, which was supposedly for the acknowledgement of a rice subsidy they had received.
Bacanto said that the company would have not reached 10-11 year of existence if there is no permit, stressing that they have all the documents to prove it.
Escalante said he issued a business permit to the VMC distillery plant, because they had complied with the necessary requirements for its operation.
Escalante, however, said that the permit can be revoked anytime if there is a violation. At the same time, he also lauded the effort of the VMC to address the environmental concerns of the residents.
The distillery plant reopened September this year, after it was shut down from June to August, for the installation of a P200-million worth of pollution control measures.
Bacanto also reported that they have already completed some new facilities, including vacuum distillation that reduces 30 percent of their process stream volume, and also completed the new anaerobic digester that ensures treatment of all process stream.
“We have completed our new world, with ponds that totally disconnect the distillery to the natural lagoons,” he added.
These investments show the strong commitment of VMC and its management to the environment, Bacanto also said, adding that he was elated to hear feedback from the community that their roadmap on environmental commitments is already showing positive results.
The plant produces 60,000 liters of alcohol a day.*GPB