BACOLOD CITY, Negros Occidental, Philippines – A senior executive of giant miller-refiner Victorias Milling Company had assured complaining residents and concerned officials in the northern Negros city of Cadiz and Manapla town that the firm is “committed” to follow government environmental standards and had even temporarily shut down its alcohol distillery and had allocated P100 million as part of steps to mitigate the impact caused by the “accidental” discharge of wastewater into the Sicaba River and to “address environmental concerns” in the distillery.
Corporate Communications Director Anne Tiongco said top management had even ordered a temporary stop to the operations of its alcohol distillery based in the village of Purisima, Manapla town even before the complaint against them was referred by an anti-corruption unit to the country’s environment secretary.
Tiongco, in a phone interview with DNX, expressed surprise over the complaint filed by village officials of Burgos in Cadiz City before the Presidential Anti Crime Corruption unit that referred the issue to Environment Sec. Roy Cimatu.
“We are surprised at this development because Vicmico had already taken steps to address the environmental concerns,” Tiongco said
The Vicmicio official furnished DNX a copy of the firm’s news release in which it quoted Vicmico president Minnie Chua as having said that the firm” resumed” the normal operations of the brewery when the pandemic was largely felt in the province months ago to respond “… to the need for alcohol production – most of which have been donated to (local government units) and various frontline agencies.”
Chua added they have seen the need to “comply with their commitment to the communities and finish the upgrades and that have were stalled when the province went on lockdown.
The company has also initiated the forming of a multi-partite monitoring team (MMT) with the local governments of Manapla and Cadiz, “environmental agencies and members of the communities to work hand in hand in preserving the environment.”
Chua pointed out “while this is no longer a requirement by (the Environment Management Board), VMC believes this will set up a proper venue to raise and resolve issues immediately.”
Prior to the shutdown of the distillery that has a rated daily capacity of 28,000 liters, EMB Regional Director Ramar Niel Pascua had issued a notice of conference after he had issued a notice outlining five violations by the firm.
These included the discharge of wastewater into the creek near Lagoon No. 5 caused by the breaking off of a portion of its riprap, the discharge of untreated water from its Lagoon No. 3, illegal discharge of wastewater, and operating wastewater treatment facilities without a valid permit.
Earlier, the city council of Cadiz City, on which the new wastewater treatment facility will be constructed in the village of Caduhaan, had passed Resolution No. 2020-254 requesting Vicmico to “immediately stop the ongoing construction of their waste management pond” in hacienda Navidad pending the approval of its certificate of social acceptability before the Cadiz City council.
The council acted on the privilege speech of Councilor Owen Desuyo who chairs the committee on rules, privileges and legal matters, who referred to the complaints of city residents in the villages of Caduhaan, Sicaba and Burgos.
A similar measure was passed by the municipal council of Manapla town that hosts the distillery.
The unanimous resolution requested the EMB to probe the alleged environmental violations committed by Vicmico.
Desuyo told DNX they have been waiting for prompt action from the environment department amid the series of wastewater discharges into the Sicaba River that flows through the three villages.
He said he could not keep count of the number of times the wastewater overflowed into the Sicaba River as these had been happening there is “heavy rainfall.”