BAGUIO CITY – The Department of Environment and Natural Resources is examining old lease sites of a mining company in Benguet after it was found dumping untreated asbestos insulation panels in Mankayan town.
Lepanto Consolidated Mining Co. (LCMC) admitted burying six truckloads of asbestos debris there, said Neoman dela Cruz, Cordillera director of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau.
Dela Cruz said the firm’s penalty would be based on the volume of buried asbestos debris that came from Metro Manila.
Asbestos fiber has been associated with cancer, and the government has discouraged the sale of asbestos-laced materials, such as ceiling panels, since 2007.
A law banning its use or sale in the country, however, is still pending before the Senate.
The Mine Rehabilitation Fund Committee (MRFC) has been studying whether LCMC can access its trust fund so it could clean up the dump in Barangay Sapid in Mankayan, he said.
Rolando Reyes, LCMC environment manager, reported in a Feb. 9 letter to the DENR that 8.78 metric tons of asbestos debris had been “resurfaced, repackaged and hauled out” to a facility in Urdaneta City in Pangasinan on Oct. 8, 2008.
Based on an MGB report sent to Environment Secretary Lito Atienza last week, LCMC had acknowledged that it had exported waste containing “suspected/presumed asbestos ceiling and insulation materials” to Mankayan in 2007.
The report indicated that the municipality had been aware of this activity.
On Feb. 10, Alex Luis, sanitary engineer of the Environmental Management Bureau, led MGB and health officials in testing Mankayan’s soil and water where the asbestos was unearthed, upon the request of Mayor Manalo Galuten.
A Feb. 4 letter to LCMC from the Occupational Safety and Health Center, an attached agency of the Department of Labor and Employment, had assured the firm that the soil was free of asbestos contaminants.- Vincent Cabreza
Northern Luzon Bureau, Philippine Daily Inquirer