Federation of Philippine Industries (FPI) chairman Dr. Jesus L. Arranza asked the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to continue cleansing the country of environmentally destructive lead smelters following a crackdown against the illegal activity in San Simon, Pampanga recently.
He also asked local government units (LGU) to exert extra effort to help stop the nefarious trade, saying unscrupulous businessmen are setting up shop in other areas.
Illegal smelting of lead in used batteries poses serious health risks to communities and can cause serious environmental problems, Arranza said.
He explained he came to know about the problem when residents in a San Simon, Pampanga village complained about the poisoning of their river by the hazardous chemical. (See https://businessmirror.com.ph/2024/01/24/closure-of-polluting-firms-in-pampanga-town-pushed/)
According to Arranza, before operating such a business, the proponent should get a proper permit and training for their employees, as well as an adequate facility for disposal of wastes.
“They operate without permits and licenses from the national and local governments,” Arranza said at a news briefing in Quezon City.
The case in San Simon, he said, “is a good example of how local and national government agencies could effectively team up to stop unscrupulous businessmen from wreaking havoc to the environment and the health of the surrounding communities.”
“May this be the start of a thorough cleansing of environmentally destructive lead smelters and ULAB [used lead acid battery] recyclers in other parts of the country,” Arranza said.
Last February 8, upon the mandate from the Office of the President, the DENR through Secretary Ma. Antonia-Loyzaga and DENR-Environmental Management Bureau Region 3 Director Marvin Jose D. Despi, and Pampanga Governor Dennis Pineda, and Vice Governor Lilia Pineda, through Provincial Environment Office Head Engr. Arthur Punsalan, the municipality of San Simon implemented the closure order against Chilwee Metallic Manufacturing Corp., Energetically Battery Manufacturing, Ecoseal Metallic Manufacturing Corp., Ecometallic Co., and 5th Resources, all located inside the Global Aseana Business Park in San Simon.
Their facilities were padlocked and sealed with stickers and streamers based on the cease and desist orders (CDO) issued against them. The CDOs were issued following the inspection conducted by the joint teams of the DENR and the local government headed by Despi, Punsalan, and San Simon municipal department heads.
The joint team confirmed the alleged violations made by these companies, including the failure to have the proper facilities mandated by several laws to operate as lead smelters and recyclers of ULAB, including RA 8749 (Clean Air Act), RA9275 (Clean Water Act), and RA6969 (Hazardous and Nuclear Wastes Act).
“We convey our utmost gratitude to President BBM, Secretary Yulo-Loyzaga, Gov. Dennis Pineda, Vice Gov. Lilia Pineda, Directors Despi and Punsalan, and the municipality of San Simon for playing crucial roles in this big victory for the environment and the people of the surrounding communities. They are indeed heroes of the environment,” Arranza said.
Arranza called on other LGUs to follow the good example set by Pampanga in being vanguards of the environment and their constituents.
He said reports reaching the FPI showed that there are also several unregulated lead smelters and ULAB recyclers in areas like Valenzuela, Tondo in Manila, Tarlac, Cavite, Cebu, and Davao, among others. Also, he noted that the padlocked companies in San Simon could just resurface in other areas using different corporate names.
“With a strong mandate from the President and Secretary Yulo-Loyzaga, we are confident that the entire country would be free from these types of environmentally destructive establishments. We at the Federation of Philippine Industries commit to continue supporting the government in this campaign and help the Marcos administration rid the country of illicit trade in its various forms to shield the local industries and consumers from its ill effects, which is the primary purpose of FPI’s existence,” Arranza said.
Arranza wrote letters to President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. and Secretary Yulo-Loyzaga to convey FPI’s gratitude, while also seeking their help in ensuring that the victory in San Simon will be replicated in other areas where illegal lead smelters and recyclers of ULAB are still reportedly operating.
The campaign started to gain ground after the Office of the President ordered the DENR to look into this problem in reaction to the expose made by Arranza in the media that illegal smelters are operating in different parts of the country.
The DENR confirmed that indeed several lead smelters are operating without the permits and licenses required by the DENR and LGUs. The largest ones are operating inside the Global Aseana Business Park in San Simon, Pampanga.
The municipality of San Simon and the provincial government of Pampanga also acted on the complaint and conducted site inspections. The companies were then issued notices of violation and “show cause” orders that they failed to satisfactorily answer, leading to the issuance of the CDO.