By JIGGER JERUSALEM
with NITZ ARANCON
PROVINCIAL board member Gerardo Sabal III yesterday said he would ask the provincial board to start an inquiry into what he feared to be the shipment of hazardous wastes from Australia to Misamis Oriental.
Sabal said the provincial board should summon officials of the Environmental Management Bureau, Bureau of Customs, and executives of Holcim Philippines so they could shed light on the shipment.
He said all he wants to know if the materials are hazardous or not.
But Customs officials said the close to a dozen container vans that were brought to the province from Australia early this month were not toxic garbage but processed materials needed as fuel for the cement manufacturer’s plants.
The contents of the nine container vans were declared by the importer as “processed engineered fuel,” said lawyer Roswald Joseph Pague, BOC-10 deputy customs collector.
The materials arrived at the Mindanao Container Terminal (MCT) in Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental on May 3.
Allaying fears that the materials may be hazardous and are purely garbage, Pague said the imported processed engineered fuel, which contains wastes such as plastic, rubber, wood, and paper, are safe and would not pose any hazard to the public.
“The evil that we’re trying to avoid [is that] it might cause seepage to the water tables or whatever contamination, is totally absent considering that it will be directly fed to the furnace,” Pague said, referring to the cement manufacturer Holcim Philippines Inc., a member of the Lafarge Holcim Group, the company that imported the materials.
The materials would be used by Holcim’s cement plants in Davao and Lugait, Misamis Oriental.
Pague said the regional office of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ Environmental Management Bureau has cleared Holcim to import the PEF for its cement manufacturing process.
This reporter was able to obtain copies of letters from the Singapore-based ResourceCo Asia Pte. Ltd. and EMB that signified the government’s approval of the PEF importation.
In 2017, ResourceCo sought EMB’s approval to export PEF and to supply the same to the cement manufacturers in the Philippines.
In his letter to EMB, Pavel Cech, ResourceCo managing director, said “the cement manufacturers in the country have been continuously exploring the use of green and alternative fuels and raw materials (AFR) for use in their cement manufacturing process as part of their sustainability programs.”
EMB director Metodio Turbella replied in his Oct. 30, 2017 letter that the agency has interposed no objection on the importation of PEF to be used as alternative fuel in cement kiln.
In March this year, Turbella has maintained that its approval of ResourceCo is “technically binding until such time that there will be updated legislation or policy on the importation of recyclable materials prohibiting the importation of PEF.”
The imported materials are currently stored at the Phividec Industrial Estate compound in Tagoloan.
In a television interview Wednesday, MCT collector John Simon said the broker of the shipment, the same one who handled the importation of wastes from South Korea last year, should be held answerable for the entry of the materials from Australia, adding the broker committed infractions.
In the same interview, Alan Cuyno, technical manager of Holcim Phils. Inc., said what they imported was “not garbage” but “low-grade fuel.”
Sabal said he and other officials inspected the container vans and found waste materials.