“‘Pag humihingi ng tubig sa baso ‘yung anak ko, tapos ‘pag nakita na parang may itim siya na buhangin, parang paminta siya, ‘di na namin iniinom (When my child asks for water to drink, and I see there’s black sand in it, like pepper, we don’t drink it anymore),” said Princess Corpin, a resident of Barangay 105 Happyland in Tondo, Manila.
Corpin’s 1 year and 7 months old daughter has been suffering from skin rashes allegedly due to coal dust that comes from a nearby stockpile.
But on most days when the wind is strong, they eat the food even if coal dust has settled on it.
“Minsan sabi ko sana ‘wag nalang humangin kasi kada hangin pati ‘yung loob ng bahay namin pinapasok (Sometimes I hope there would be no wind because coal dust would enter our house),” Corpin added.
Because of coal dust in the air, it is common to see the children of Happyland smeared with coal dirt from head to toe. Even houses and pets have blackened.
The coal dust came from a facility of EnergiesSupply Chain Solutions, Inc., a subsidiary of Rock Energy International Corporation. EnergiesSupply provides delivery services in the country. The facility hosts a coal stockpile.
EnergiesSupply facility engineer and safety officer Dennis Conejos said the coal were imported from Indonesia, stored in Tondo and then delivered to plantations in Bulacan and Rizal to be used as fuel.
Conejos said he doubts the health problems came from the coal dust, as residents have been living with garbage that could also be hazardous to their health.
But Corpin disagreed with Conejos. Children are covered with coal dust all the time now.
“Ngayon kahit saan mo na dalhin wala eh, sa loob o sa labas, pupunuin talaga sila ng coal (Now wherever we put the children, inside or outside the house, they would still be covered with coal),” she said.
Barangay 105 Happyland, located near the Manila North Harbor, is a densely populated area in Tondo. In 2010, it had a total population of 25,844, according to Philippine Statistics Office.
Many residents, including children, have been suffering from health problems, such as asthma, cough and skin rashes. Corpin, whose three children got sick since the coal dust pervaded their community, is one of the residents of Happyland demanding the pull out of the coal stockpile
Residents expected the pull-out of the coal stockpile today. In the negotiations last May 25 between the residents, barangay officials and EnergiesSupply management, the latter promised to remove the stockpile. Residents said the coal stockpile was dumped in their area last year. In a few weeks time, the residents started to experience the adverse effects of the coal stockpile.
Conejos said it would still take the management two months or until the end of July to pull out the stockpile completely due to port congestion.
But residents of Happyland could not wait any longer because of the risk it poses to their health.
Corpin and her husband, a pedicab driver, earn only P200-P250 a day. She said their daily earnings are not enough to buy medicine for the diseases the coal dust have caused them. Corpin wants the management to conduct a medical mission to their community.
“Tutal sila naman mayayaman, gusto ko sana magpa-medical mission sila, para naman sa ganon sa mga naapektuhan ng coal na ‘yan, kahit papano makabawi rin sila. Kasi talagang hirap kami pagdating sa gamot at gastusin sa bahay (Since they are the rich, I want them to conduct a medical mission so those who were affected by the coal could get even. It is really hard for us to keep up with both medical and household expenditures),” Corpin said.
Another resident, Leonila Mendoza, showed an x-ray of her son dated May 18, 2015. Her son is suffering from asthma allegedly due to coal dust.
“Apektado talaga kami, unang-una ‘yung pagkain; pangalawa ‘yung kalusugan namin; pangatlo ‘yung mga gamit namin. Kahit nakapasok na sa cabinet (ang damit), pasok pa rin yung alikabok. ‘Pag hindi mo pinagpag, makati. Sa pagkain ‘pag ‘di mo tinakpan pagdating mo uling na, maitim na (We are really affected – our food, our health and our belongings. Even if we put our clothes in a cabinet, the dust finds its way through. If you don’t brush the clothes, it gets itchy. And if you do not cover the food, it will turn black),” Mendoza said.
Even though the management has assured to pull out the coal stockpile by the end of July, Mendoza said they will not stop protesting until the toxic landfill is finally removed.
“Ang hiling naming sa lalong madaling panahon (maalis na). Eh humingi ng 45 days dahil ‘di raw madali ang paglipat. Pumayag naman kami pero hindi kami titigil hanggat ‘di talaga naalis yan (Our wish is to remove the coal stockpile as soon as possible. But they (the management) asked for 45 days because the transfer is not easy. We agreed, but we will not stop until it is totally removed),” Mendoza said.
Congresswoman Emmi De Jesus of Gabriela Women’s Party said she plans to file a resolution that will investigate the possible violations of the company on health and environment. The partylist formed a team that has conducted an investigation on the site.
De Jesus said she will also investigate whether the company has a business permit to operate the coal stockpile.