By Madelaine B. Miraflor
As much as five steel mills are now in hot water and may soon face charges for their alleged violation of labor and environmental laws, particularly the Clean Air Act or Republic Act (RA)No. 8749.
These companies are Pampanga-based Melter Steel Corp., Real Steel Corp. and Wan Chiong Steel Corp.; Metro Dragon Steel Corp. in Caloocan City; and Davao Mighty Steel Corp.
To be specific, these firms are being accused of emitting high air pollution levels that pose serious hazards to public health and the environment.
In a radio interview, Environment Undersecretary Benny Antiporda said that the DENR will definitely not allow these companies to continue their practices at the expense of the environment.
“We will not allow these capitalists to cause damage to the environment,” Antiporda said.
The said companies were members of the Philippine Induction Smelting Industry Association (PISIA) which use induction furnace for steel manufacturing, an equipment called by the ASEAN Iron and Steel Council (AISC) as obsolete and has already been banned in China due to the pollution that it causes and substandard steel that it produces.
The AISC, calling for the ban of induction furnace in ASEAN, has said that induction furnace facilities are “environmentally unfriendly” because they generally lack proper environmental control and are not equipped with waste gas treatment system.
“As a consequence, the process releases harmful gases and generate high degree of pollutants to the environment,” the AISC said in its position paper presented during the last meeting of the ASEAN Senior Economic Officials Meeting.
As for labor rights group Philippine Association of Free Labor Unions (PAFLU) and environmental group Clean Air Philippines Movement Inc. (CAPMI), they said that the air pollution at the five steel mills exceeded the maximum level set by the World Health Organization. This could negatively affect the employees of these companies.
PAFLU and CAPMI had also earlier lodged a complaint with the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) against the five steel mills based on their findings.