“People who make a living selling cooked food and making shrimp paste complain that their customers stopped buying their wares because of the coal dust.”
By LHEALYN VICTORIA
MANILA – Tondo residents want a coal dust warehouse evicted from their community, saying that it had affected people’s health and homes.
Urban poor residents of Happyland and Barangay 105 held a protest, today, June 11, calling for the closure and eviction of the storage facility of Rock Energy Corporation, which, they said, had kept illegal stockpiles of coal dust in their community since 2014.
The coal dust is being imported by La Farge, a transnational corporation.
The village government had given the company an order to pull out the coal dust stockpile within two weeks, ending today. Rock Energy Corp was reportedly granted permits by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. However, local officials said it was operating without a business permit.
Rock Energy Corporation had just started to pull out the coal dust and was asking for 45 more days to get all of the stocks out.
Gabriela Women’s Partylist Rep. Emmie de Jesus, who joined the protesters, said the presence of the facility has even worsened the suffering of the impoverished communities of Tondo.
“Rock Energy’s website boasts that the facility was designed to comply with safety and environmental standards in handling the coal stockpile and other materials. But people who make a living selling cooked food and making shrimp paste complain that their customers stopped buying their wares because of the coal dust,” said De Jesus.
“The pile of coal dust in that facility was mountain-like and, as much as Rock Energy tries to flatten it, it’s not possible because of the huge quantities,” said Ram Carlo Bautista, spokesperson of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) Manila chapter.
Bautista also added that 25,000 residents of Barangay 105 alone were affected by the dust, especially those who live near the wall of the facility. When it rains, black residue settles on the houses and when it is hot, coal dust particles are blown by the wind, and are inhaled by the residents.
Bautista said residents blame the coal dust to health problems like asthma, cough, fever and skin rashes. He said they will conduct a fact-finding to find out the extent of the effect on people’s health,” Bautista said.
To depict their misery, two protesters marched covered with soot, while others carried an eviction notice against the facility.
Bautista also called on Manila City Mayor Joseph Estrada to intervene and close the facility. He added that they would hold more protests until the company pulls out of the area.
“If Rock Energy Corporation and La Farge will not pull out, then we, the people of Tondo will do the eviction work for them,” Bautista said.