ALSONS Consolidated Resources Inc. has revised the technical features of its planned bio-ethanol plant, but said it will still be constructed at the Bayanga-Mambuaya site as originally proposed.

During the technical meeting called by the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Northern Mindanao, representatives of Alsons presented the revisions that they said were made to address “issues about alleged environmental hazards posed by the bio-ethanol plant.”

Dr. Ed Alabastro, Alsons technical consultant, said the company is bent on continuing with the project.

“We are presenting the revisions to our environmental impact statement (EIS) to be used as serving basis for continually improving the project’s technology and addressing issues and concerns of the community,” he said.

Aside from the members of review bodies assigned to study Alson’s application for Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC), the EMB also invited to the meeting stakeholders who will be affected by the proposed plant, including the local government units of Bayanga and Mambuaya.

In the presentation, Alsons said that unlike its original plan, it will now use only dried cassava chips to make sure there will be no foul smell emitted from the plant.

On the issue of air pollution caused by the coal-fired boiler, Alsons said the use of coal will be minimized due to the use of solid waste as fuel and the installation of anti-pollution facilities.

On the concern that cassava chips might cause cyanide poisoning, Alsons argued that experts have confirmed that using dried cassava chips, by slicing and drying under the sun for four to five days, will ensure the feedstock will be cyanide-free.

At the onset of the meeting, Manny Valdehuesa, convenor of the Kagayan Watershed Alliance (Kawal), questioned Alson’s failure to respond to the basic issue of location.

“Why are you discussing these technical details when you have not answered our paramount concern, which is the location of the plant?” said Valdehuesa who later walked out from the meeting, saying it was a waste of time.

Lawyer Nonette Royo, Kawal chair, said that Alsons should be prudent enough to translate the presentation that ordinary people can understand to prevent misleading them.

“How can we react to your proposal when we don’t even understand the information which is very technical? For example, you are saying that you will process the cassava chips through fermentation. You should make people understand how this process is done, that it will cause foul smell for days,” said Royo.

In a statement, Kawal said: “Any discussion on the technological aspects of the ECC application…is less important that the issue of its location.”

“Claims to safety, assurances of responsible management or handling, or promises by company officials cannot justify locating that bio-ethanol plant outside the duly established industrial estate. Nor can it be justified in Bayanga/Mambuaya or anywhere atop or within the city’s watershed system,” the statement reads.

Alex Jimenez, chief of the Environmental Impact Assessment under the EMB, said they have created two review bodies to evaluate Alson’s application for ECC.

“You can say that this project is unique because this is the only time that we are creating two review committees. One is an independent review committee composed of experts from academe and other sectors, and the other is the EIA review committee,” he said during the meeting.

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