BY GILBERT P. BAYORAN
Residents of Brgy. Purisima in Manapla, Negros Occidental, have sought the help of President Rodrigo Duterte, over the alleged air and water pollution reportedly caused by the operations of the Victorias Milling Company Distillery plant in their community.
They claimed that the government officials and agencies that are supposed to help them are pointing to each other on who should address their complaints.
They are also complaining against the area expansion of the distillery plant, that reportedly encroaches on the properties owned by agrarian reform beneficiaries and already awarded to them by the Department of Agrarian Reform.
The residents also accused the municipal government of Manapla and their barangay officials of taking the side of the VMC management.
Randy Bacaron, a former employee of VMC, said the disputed 106-hectare property, a portion of which is being occupied by the distillery plant, was under the name of the government since 2013, and more than P24 million had already been paid by Land Bank.
Dolores Managaytay, 71, who claimed to have been awarded with 2.4 hectares of land, said they have copies of the Certificate of Land Ownership Award to prove that they are the owners of the property.
Affected residents are also up in arms over the fencing of the area, including their plaza and basketball court, that they said, is making their lives more miserable.
Bacaron claimed that VMC is also threatening the affected families to force them to leave the area.
“We are appealing to President Duterte to hear our complaints,” he said.
Bacaron said they are also seeking the help of San Carlos Bishop Gerardo Alminaza, who is an environmentalist.
NO SEC REGISTRATION?
Ronald Deocadez, a volunteer of the Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement, claimed that the VMC Inc. Distillery Plant is not registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission, and cited a certificate issued by the SEC-Bacolod Extension Office.
The Environmental Management Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources Western Visayas has issued a notice of violation to the VMC Distillery Plant for lapses committed under Republic Act 9275, or the Philippine Clean Water Act, due to the overflow of the wastewater from the existing lagoon, and for violating the Water Quality Guidelines and General Effluent Standards of 2016.
EMB 6 regional director Ramar Niel Pascua said the Pollution Adjudication Board has issued an order granting the urgent request for clearance for the issuance of its amended Environmental Compliance Certificate on the proposed Irrigation Pond and Wastewater Treatment Facility of VMC, and without prejudice to the imposition of fines under RA 9275.
The management of VMC earlier said it has already addressed the environment issues raised by the residents, with the upgrading of its facilities in Brgy. Purisima, Manapla.
The distillery plant reopened September last year, after it was shut down from June to August, to pave the way for the installation of pollution control measures, worth P200 million.
Deocadez, in a complaint-affidavit signed by residents of haciendas Ladngon, Tagbanon, Marianas, Turina in Brgy. Caduhaan, and Tres Hermanos, Brgy. Luna, all in Cadiz City, said they are also opposing the plan of VMC to construct a new slope lagoon in Hacienda Candelaria, claiming it has no permit and will be established in a CLOA property.*