Tondo residents hold Kalbaryo ng Mamamayan for hardships due to coal facility

HUNDREDS of cross-bearing residents living in the vicinity of a coal stockpile facility in Tondo held a Kalbaryo ng Mamamayan to demand that the Harbour Centre Port Terminal Inc. operator of the the 10-hectare multi-purpose port terminal inside the Manila Harbour Centre and its tenant, Rock Energy International Corp. for reparations for the adverse health effects on the communities after almost three years of operations.

Almost two months ago, the Manila City Hall ordered the shutdown the coal dust facility after years of persistent complaints and mass actions from environmental and militant groups.

The mask-wearing Kalbaryo participants were joined by Manila congressman Atong Asilo, Sanlakas nominee Atty. Aaron Pedrosa and leaders of urban poor federation Zone One Tondo Organization.

“It is appalling enough that these companies prosper and profit without any regard for the health impacts brought about by their toxic businesses to nearby communities but what is equally distressing is that these are also climate change-vulnerable communities, says SM-ZOTO chairman Orly Gallano.

Kalbaryo participants convened at the corner of R-10 and Capulong Street and held brief programs in front of the coal facility before proceeding to another alleged coal facility inside Pier 18 also in Vitas and then proceeded to the Harbour Centre office. At the program speakers took turns reiterating their call for reparations and holistic rehabilitation of the community.

Pedrosa insisted that, “The facility’s closure isn’t enough. There must be an investigation in order to determine if there were infractions of the law and identify those liable for allowing its operation in the first place”.

“Reparations and the rehabilitation of Happyland and its environs is the very concept of social justice with social progress that we at Sanlakas are pursuing. The underprivileged neighborhoods, poor as they are must not be treated as trash bins of toxins and other pollutants. They must be the government’s top priority and not these corporate vultures,” the progressive lawyer added.

He noted that Harbour Centre Port Terminal Inc management has a fixation for leasing its property to house other highly polluting and hazardous businesses such as a dumpsite at Pier 18 and the proposed relocation of the oil depots, once evicted from Pandacan, Manila.

“These abusive companies must exact a heavy toll for their violations and it must serve as a deterrent to others who plan to put up hazardous and climate-changing businesses,” Pedrosa insisted.

“Kailangan nilang pagbayarin ang delubyong dinulot nila amin. Hindi kami hihinto sa pagkilos hanggat wala kaming nakakamit na hustisya,” said Happyland long-time resident Olive Dealagdon in Tagalog.

For his part, Asilo, a vice mayoral aspirant in the city pledged that the Happyland and its surrounding areas will be given due attention and assistance. “The wealth incurred and over-all progress brought about by the pier’s operations must benefit by the residents. The exploitation of urban poor communities has to end once and for all. Justice must not be allowed to wait any longer.”