VMC distillery acts on pollution concerns, residents deny seeking closure of plant

The new anaerobic digester at the VMC Distillery in Manapla. Ronnie Baldonado photo

The Victorias Milling Company Distillery in Barangay Purisima, Manapla has addressed pollution concerns and no longer discharges waste to a natural lagoon, plant manager Sherwin Bacanto said today, November 10.

“We have zero waste because we are no longer discharging to any water body,” Bacanto said.

Some residents of the barangay also denied Tuesday that they had signed a petition against Manapla and VMC officials, and called for the closure of the plant because of pollution concerns, pointing out that a shutdown would cause the loss of jobs.

The VMC Distillery has 80 organic employees and more than 100 outsourced workers, VMC Administrative Office Eva Rodriguez said.

Manapla Mayor Manuel Escalante said he granted VMC a permit to operate since it had complied with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and Department of Agriculture requirements.

Manapla Mayor Manuel Escalante and the Purisima residents held a press conference today, November 10. Ronnie Baldonado photo

He said the firm has addressed its pollution problem and its permit to operate can be revoked if it commits any violation.

It is important to also ensure that livelihood of residents of the barangay, the mayor said.

A multi tripartite monitoring team has been created by the local governments of Manapla and Cadiz to act on pollution violations, he said.

The distillery plant was closed from June to August to address the pollution problem. VMC invested more than P100 million to put pollution control measures in place, Bacanto said.

The distillery no longer discharges its processed stream into a natural lagoon, which catches basin in the Sicaba River, he said.

The plant is totally disconnected from the natural lagoon, its discharges that now come in the form of liquid fertilizer go to manmade ponds, he said. The liquid fertilizer is then given out to sugar planters who mill with VMC, he added.

A newly installed anaerobic digester processes the distillery’s waste into liquid fertilizer, he said.

He said phase two of their anti-pollution measures is to convert the previously used natural lagoon into a fishpond.

The distillery now produces 50,000 to 55,000 liters of bioethanol from molasses a day and aims to reach a full capacity of 60,000 liters, he said.

It also produces 600 cubic meters of liquid fertilizer per day, he added.

Some Barangay Purisima residents yesterday denied that they had signed a petition sent to the Office of the President against Manapla Mayor Manuel Escalante, Purisima Barangay Captain Creseciano Sombero, VMC president and chief operating officer Minnie Chua, and Ramar Niel Pascua of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in connection with the pollution at the distillery.

Task Force Kasanag sent a complaint against the four officials to President Rodrigo Duterte on October 15 and the Group of Environmental Socialists Inc. filed a similar complaint.

A complaint lodged before the Office of the Ombudsman Visayas asked for the dismissal of the officials from service and the closure of the distillery.

Purisima residents Angela Jumamoy and Thamar Teresa Genobis denied today that they signed a petition against the four officials and VMC.

Julius Cesar Cañete said he was made to sign an attendance sheet to prove that he is a resident of Barangay Purisima in November.

Several other residents also filed police blotters denying that they had signed petitions against VMC and the local officials.

Some said they were asked to sign for the release of rice assistance.*

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