CAGAYAN DE ORO, Philippines – The city government of Iligan City started on Tuesday, December 7, an investigation into an industrial accident in one of Mindanao’s biggest cement manufacturers that sent a huge plume of cement dust over a seaside village.
Jose Pantoja, spokesperson of the Iligan City government, said authorities were investigating the accident, fearing that it may have posed health hazards on the 7,700 residents of Barangay Kiwalan.
Pantoja said the Kiwalan barangay council and the Environmental Management Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) were also separately investigating what happened at the Iligan plant of Republic Cement Corporation, an Aboitiz-owned company.
Netizens posted photos and videos on Facebook showing a huge plume of cement dust coming out from the Republic Cement plant housing its clinker manufacturing process.
The photographs showed dust coming out of the plant into the highway linking the Cagayan de Oro-Iligan highway.
Republic Cement president Lloyd Vicente, in a statement, said “an equipment malfunction” resulted in “a conveyor tube blockage.”
Vicente said “operations were immediately halted as soon as the incident occurred” early Tuesday afternoon.
He said they conducted cleanup operations immediately after the incident happened.
“While most of the cement landed within our site, cleanup operations on the national highway affected have been completed,” Vicente said.
Vicente said they also informed the local government units and the DENR-EMB soon after about the accident.
“The well-being and safety of our community and employees are important to us and remain our top priority,” Vicente said.
Environmentalist Raoul Geolluegue said the DENR-EMB should send a team to the site to evaluate the accident.
Geolluegue, a former director of the DENR in northern Mindanao, said although cement dust is non-toxic it could result in irreparable damage to the lungs of those who inhaled it. -Rappler.com
Froilan Gallardo is a Mindanao-based journalist and an awardee of the Aries Rufo Journalism Fellowship.