SURIGAO CITY (MindaNews/03 July) — Reports of alleged ammonia leak from the tanks of the mothballed Philippine Nickel Mining and Industrial Corp. Inc., in Nonoc Island, Surigao City were false, city officials who inspected the site last Friday said.
The ocular inspection was led by City Councilor Christopher Bonite, chair of the committee on environmental protection.
Bonite said he received reports that ammonia had leaked from the big tanks of the mining company allegedly causing serious health problems among the residents of Barangays San Pedro, Cantiasay, Nonoc and Talisay.
The plant, a subsidiary of Philnico, was foreclosed by the government in 1984 for failing to pay its loans with the Philippine National Bank and Development Bank of the Philippines. But it continued to operate despite the foreclosure order and only closed down in March 1986 due to losses.
Talisay is home to some 1,000 people many of whom reportedly had problems with their lungs and stomachs. But Bonite said they found the reports to be not true.
“Walay leakages didto kay dugay naman nga walay operation. Didto mi sa tulo ka mga dagkong tangke diin didto gipundo ang maong ammonia nga gigamit sa planta ug among nasuta nga wala nay sulod,” (There were no leaks since there had been no operation for a long time already. We inspected the three huge tanks that were used to contain ammonia but those tanks were all empty) he said.
Boy Ramiso, village chief of Talisay said there was no leak from the tanks. He added he does not know of any residents who got sick owing to the supposed leak.
Ramiso said that when the firm was still operating he could smell ammonia coming from it. He said he could not say if his neighbors became sick from inhaling the chemical.
Engr. Victor Nunez, resident mine manager of Philnico-Pacific Nickel Philippines Inc., said that of the three tanks of the plant which had served as the depository of the waste, two were already empty while the other one was 20-percent full with “diluted” load.
He said the mining firm produced nickel and cobalt products using the ammoniacal ammonium carbonate process.
Nunez added that if there was a leak the animals that are close to the facilities would have been the first to suffer.
He said wild ducks, monitor lizards, snakes, crows and some other birds nearby were all in normal condition.
Asked for comment, city engineer Jose Ensomo said the facilities at the mothballed nickel refinery should be demolished because they were already corroded.
Ensomo joined the inspection last Friday along with Councilor Pablo Bonono Jr., a chemist from the Pacific Cement Company and local reporters. (Roel N. Catoto/MindaNews)