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Senate probe on coal mine, power plant mishaps pushed

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By Vanne P. Terrazola

Senator Loren Legarda is calling for a Senate investigation on the recent mishaps by coal mine and power plants in Antique, Oriental Mindoro and Iloilo provinces.

Sen. Loren Legarda (Facebook / MANILA BULLETIN)

Sen. Loren Legarda
(Facebook / MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

Before the Congress took a legislative break for the holidays this week, Legarda filed Senate Resolution No. 567 seeking an inquiry, in aid of legislation, into the collapse of a portion of the open-pit coal mine in Semirara Island, Antique; the power plant oil leak in Calapan City, Oriental Mindoro; and the power plant ash leak in Concepcion, Iloilo, and their respective environment and health impacts on the affected areas.

Legarda, chair of the Senate committee on climate change, said the inquiry aims to encourage concerned government agencies to conduct a “fair and impartial” probe on these incidents.

She cited the death of nine miners during a landslide on July, 2015, in the Panian open-pit mine site of the Semirara Mining and Power Corporation in Antique. Semirara Mining and Power Corporation is the biggest coal producer in the Philippines and the only power generator that owns and mines its fuel source, which is coal. It reportedly supplies about 95 percent of the country’s coal needs.

The 2015 Panian landslide, however, was the second deadly accident in the mine site. In 2013, a wall of the mine collapsed on 13 workers, 10 of them died.

Legarda also mentioned Semirara’s sister company, the DMCI Power Corporation, whose 15-megawatt bunker-fired diesel plant in Barangay Sta. Isabel, Oriental Mindoro on October 6, 2017 reportedly leaked 800 liters of oil due to a faulty sensor. While the leak was said to have been contained, the senator said it had damaged around 10 hectares of farmland and nearby creek and fishpond.

Not long after the Oriental Mindoro leak, Palm Concepcion Power Plant in Barangay Nipa, Concepcion, Iloilo, on October 30 this year also figured in a glitch that led to its leaking of “dark and thick” ash. Residents were evacuated following the fly ash leak from the coal-fired power plant.

Upon returning home, however, residents reportedly complained of chest pains, coughing, and vomiting.

In her resolution, the senator stressed the harmful effects of substances released by coal-fired power plants to the persons and the environment.

“Coal-fired power plants emit a range of toxic substances that have been known to cause serious impacts on health and environment and their combustionwastes carry health jeopardies that lead to lung, heart, and brain illnesses. The burning of coal affects the environment, human health, and wildlife, and is a major contributor to climate change,” part of her resolution read.

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