Sep 26, 2020

DENR issues stoppage order on palm oil mill in Brooke’s Point

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has issued a cease-and-desist order (CDO) to a palm oil mill in Brooke’s Point for polluting the Calabugan River in Sitio Abubakar, Brgy. Calasaguen.

Edna Velasco, chief of the Provincial Environment Management Office (PEMO), told Palawan News on Friday that the DENR’s Pollution Adjudication Board (PAB) issued this CDO to Agumil Philippines Inc. (AGPI).

Velasco said she was with the regional office’s representatives of the DENR Environment Management Bureau (EMB) when they served the CDO to mill manager Engr. Arthur Elicanal on July 17.

“Para hindi na sila makapag-operate, pinaskilan namin at tinape ‘yong main generator nila that enables the mill to function, nilagyan namin ng date at pinirmahan. Regional office ang nag-serve. Pag-serve ng CDO, binasa sa kanila kung ano ‘yong mga na-violate nila. Iyon ngang wastewater na nag-leak doon sa may ilog.” she added.

The PAB Case No. 4B-00949-19 indicated that API violated Republic Act (RA) 9275 or the Philippine Clean Water Act of 2004, including its implementing rules and regulations.

Velasco added that in January 18 this year when concerned residents of Brgy. Calasaguen, led by barangay officials filed a complaint before the Brooke’s Point Community Environment and Natural Resources (CENRO).

They complained that on January 16 they saw some dead prawns, dead fish and a black oily liquid floating on Calabugan River.

“Iyon pala ‘yong pinagmulan non, may backhoe na nagdi-dig doon dahil mapupuno na ‘yong kanilang siltation pond. Almost 1.5 meters na lang mag-o-overflow na. So nagde-dredge sila. Ang problema, nahagip ‘yong pipe na nakatutok [sa river] palabas, kaya naapektuhan ‘yong river,” Velasco said.

An investigation by the Brooke’s Point CENRO showed that the pipes outlet of the palm-oil mill was hit by a backhoe while dredging its siltation pond.

This caused a leak that flowed to the Calabugan River, Brgy. Calasaguen.

The EMB conducted laboratory water sampling on API’s discharged wastewater, which failed in the prescribed water quality of DENR.

The results showed that Velasco also said it exceeded DENR’s general effluent standards.

“Failed ang kanilang Phosphate, ang BOD (Biochemical Oxygen Demand) failed din, Total Suspended Solids (TSS) nag-fail din and Oil and Grease (O&G),” she said.

After the water sampling in January, the DENR immediately issued the AGPI a notice of violation, she said.

The DENR-MIMAROPA conducted a technical conference with AGPI representatives on March 15 to discuss the problem.

She pointed that while AGPI claimed to have submitted the necessary documents to the regional office, the PAB could not find it.

“Pinag-usapan nila sa technical conference… kailangang i-commit nila to submit a plant process including the treatment. Lumalabas na hindi na-receive ‘yong kanilang [papers]. Meron silang program kung ano ‘yong gagawin nila,” said Velasco.

She noted the regional record officer of DENR-MIMAROPA died recently, which affected the smooth tracking of their received documents.

Velasco said API claimed they complied the necessary requirements, but PAB has already released the CDO.

In its website, AGPI said it as a palm oil company, which is 75 percent Filipino-owned and 25 percent Malaysian.

AGPI is part of the Agusan Plantations Group of Companies (APGC), which also includes its sister company the Palawan Palm and Vegetable Oil Mills Inc. (PPVOMI), and the Agusan Plantations, Inc. (API), and Philippine Agriculture Land Development and Mill, Inc. (PALM, Inc.). PPVOMI.

Before its closure on July 17, AGPI operated its oil mill in Brgy. Maasin, Brooke’s Point town, to process crude oil palm and palm kernel since 2005 when it was established and registered as a local company.

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