BAGUIO CITY—Residents of Sapid, Mankayan, Benguet filed a second petition that pushed town officials to act on the asbestos wastes earlier dumped by the Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company (LCMCo), after the company failed to fulfill its promise to haul out the toxic materials.
Acting on an earlier petition, town officials contemplated on filing charges against the company. This prompted the said mining firm to haul out said wastes, which turned out to have come from its Makati office.
Some 115 residents of the said barangay in a petition, asked Mankayan Mayor Manalo B. Galuten and the town council to look into the asbestos wastes left by LCMCo despite the mining company’s commitment to haul out all the said wastes. The petition was dated October 29.
In a report, Sapid barangay council quoted witnesses as saying the wastes were dumped by Shipside Trucking, an LCMCo subsidiary, on April 10 and in 2007 in Sitio Tagumbao, Upper Tram in Barangay Sapid.
Alleging then that the wastes were asbestos materials illegally dumped by the mining company, the Sapid council through Barangay Resolution No. 34-2008 dated April 12, requested LCMCo to “cease unloading or dumping of the waste (asbestos)” in their barangay and to relocate the said wastes to other sites.
Informed about the alleged dumping of asbestos wastes, the Sanguniang Bayan (SB) of Mankayan led by Vice-mayor Paterno Dacanay invited representatives of the mining company to its regular session to shed light on the concern.
Based on the minutes of the Mankayan SB session on May 6, LCMCo environmentalist Rolando C. Reyes, denied that the wastes dumped were asbestos but materials used for acidic pads and cushions. Reyes assured the members of the SB the wastes are not hazardous in nature. He appeared with Vice-president and resident Manager Magellan G. Bagayao and a certain Edgar Ebiong at the council session.
The pads and cushions came from the company’s Makati City office that was renovated, according to Reyes.
Company representatives also assured the council they complied with policies set by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), adding these are properly covered , thus making it safe for the environment.
In a May 7 letter submitted to the SB, the company committed not to repeat the said dumping and should an area be considered as future waste dump, LCMCo would coordinate with town officials concerned before it would begin operating.
Meanwhile, samples taken from the dumpsite were tested by the Environmental and Urban Planning Laboratory of the Saint Louis University Engineering and Architecture department, which later found out that the wastes had an asbestos content of 50.385%.
Asbestos is a fibrous mineral usually used for fire proofing and insulation in buildings, pipes, walls, ceilings, floors and others. It is a serious health hazard if inhaled that could cause asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma, which is a rare type of cancer that most often occur in the thin membrane lining of the lungs, chest, abdomen and heart, according to Dr. Ana Leung of the Community Health Education Services and Training in the Cordillera Region (Chestcore).
Asbestos has been internationally banned because of its toxicity.
Upon learning of the result of the tests, the Mankayan SB through Resolution No. 289-2008, authorized Galuten to file appropriate charges against the mining firm for illegally dumping toxic waste materials in Upper Tram.
Through a series of meetings with the barangay officials and residents, town officials and representatives from the Environmental Management Bureau of the DENR, LCMCo volunteered to haul out the asbestos waste materials and to relocate outside the municipality. # Cye Reyes