Corporate News

By Victor V. Saulon, Sub-Editor

Semirara clarifies issues raised by DENR

Posted on August 17, 2016

SEMIRARA Mining and Power Corp. (SMPC) has responded to the letter of the Energy secretary requiring the Consunji-led coal miner to clarify the “collateral issues” raised by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

In a disclosure to the stock exchange after trading hours on Tuesday, SMPC attached its response and addressed six issues raised against it, including on toxic waste, the adverse effects on the lives of seaweed farmers and alleged land grabbing.

“SMPC does not employ toxic chemicals in its mining processes as it only involves extraction, stockpiling, and shiploading,” Victor A. Consunji, SMPC president and chief operating officer, said in an Aug. 15, 2016 letter addressed to Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi.

Mr. Consunji said SMPC is registered with the DENR-Environment Management Bureau to cover its equipment and facilities for hazardous materials such as oil, batteries and electronic equipment.

“Relative to the toxic waste allegedly affecting the mangroves, SMPC assures that wastes are not thrown to nor in direct contact with the environment or with the mangroves in the area including those planted by SMPC,” he said. “These wastes (used oil, etc.) are handled properly and delivered to and shipped out by a DENR-Accredited Third-Party Transporter and Shipper.”

Mr. Consunji said the closest incident he could think of that affected the mangroves was the oil spill in December 2015 involving the state-owned National Power Corp., whose barge ran aground along Semirara Island. But he added that the agency “totally cleaned up the area.”

On the issue about the sulfur content of its coal, Mr. Consunji said that based on its analysis, its output carries 1% or less of sulfur, for which it attached a laboratory analysis report.

“With this, the sulfur content of Semirara coal produced does not pose danger to our employees nor to nearby residents,” the SMPC official said.

On the supposed adverse effect on the lives of seaweed farmers, Mr. Consunji said farming activities on the island were limited compared to Panagatan and other islands in the municipality of Caluya.

He also addressed the poverty level on Semirara Island, saying that it had contributed “very much to the coffers” of the national and local government. It said in 2015, the provincial government of Antique received as much as P144 million, while Caluya town received P323 million and Barangay Semirara P251 million.

Mr. Consunji also answered questions about the impact of its operations on the housing community. In order to comply with the conditions of its environmental compliance certificate, SMPC built a dike along the shores of Barangay Semirara using overburden materials “to prevent siltation and to avoid pollutants from being discharged into nearby water streams.”

On the land-grabbing issue, Mr. Consunji said the whole Semirara Island is part of the coal mining reservation under Proclamation No. 649 issued on Nov. 20, 1940.

“Considering the said law, lands within the reservation are mineral lands as defined under 1987 Philippine Constitution. In the exercise of its rights and obligations as contracted under the Coal Operating Contract with the Department of Energy, SMPC negotiates with land occupants regarding the lots they occupy voluntarily with coercion and for a consideration,” he said. “SMPC has not deprived nor encroached upon another property.”