Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje has ordered the closure of a sugar mill in Balayan, Batangas province for repeately violating Republic Act (RA) N0. 9275, or the Philippine Clean Water Act and RA 8749 or the Philippine Clean Air Act.

At the same time, Paje directed the DENR’s CALABARZON office to serve within 72 hours the cease-and-desist order (CDO) issued against Batangas Sugar Central Inc. (BSCI) and ensure its full implementation.

“I have a marching order to the regional office of the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) to strictly implement the CDO, and make sure that Batangas Sugar Central Incorporated (BSCI) does not operate until its violations are properly addressed,” Paje said.

Paje, who is also the concurrent chairman of the Pollution Adjudication Board (PAB), said that the Board can issue a resolution recommending proper government agencies to file criminal charges against firms that grossly violate environmental laws.

“I would like to make it clear that the sugar mill is committing two kinds of violations here. One is the violation against environmental laws for its continued emission of smoke and effluents that do not meet the DENR standards, and the other is its blatant disregard of the standing CDO earlier issued against it. Under the law, we can file criminal charges against any firm who continue to defy lawful orders, such as CDOs, issued by the PAB,” Paje said.

In the PAB order, the EMB regional office was tasked to conduct air and water samplings prior to the execution of the CDO to determine the extent of BSCI’s pollution violation, and install in a conspicuous place a billboard notifying the public of the firm’s violations and current status.

Paje likewise directed the regional office to gather necessary evidence and coordinate with the EMB central office for the filing of criminal charges, and to review other permits and clearances issued to the respondent and immediately cancel such if warranted.

He also ordered that the offices of the Batangas governor and the Balayan mayor be furnished with a copy of the PAB order.

Late last year, the DENR has slapped fines against five erring firms for violating environmental laws. Benna Enterprises, Clean Earth Solutions International Incorporated and spouses Sabas and Helen Ilagan, Mega Fishing Corporation, Ayala Seafood Corporation and Silangan Poultry Dressing Plant for violating the effluent standards prescribed in the Clean Water Act of 2004 and its implementing rules and regulations.

Benna enterprises, a firm engaged in noodles in Barangay Imus in Santiago, Ilocos Sur was slapped with a fine of P10,000.00 for continued discharge of effluents that did not meet the DENR standards; Clean Earth Solutions International Incorporated and spouses Sabas and Helen Ilagan, a company engaged in the recycling and disposal of hazardous wastes located at the Maharlika Highway in Brgy. San Antonio I of San Pablo City in Batangas were also fined in the amount of PhP3.7M; Mega fishing Corporation, a manufacturing company producing canned and pouched sardines located in Talisay, Zamboanga City fined in the amount of PhP300,000.00 for discharging effluents that did not meet the DENR standards for a total of 30 days of operation; Ayala Seafood Corporation located in Calle Segundo, Ayala in Zamboanga City likewise fined with PhP190,000.00; and Silangan Poultry Dressing Plant located in Brgy. San Jose, Lipa City in Batangas sanctioned with fine of PhP190,000.00 for discharging for 19 days effluents.