They said the dust coming from the General Milling Corp. plant often enters their houses, and the noise from the unloading of raw materials keeps them awake at night. These problems, they said, have been ongoing for several years.
A 28-year-old male resident of Purok Gmelina in Barangay Poblacion, who asked not be named, told SunStar Cebu on Friday, March 3, 2023, that several members of families living near the coastal area beside the GMC, especially children and senior citizens, have been experiencing persistent cough due to dust.
The resident is also afraid that insects — believed to have come from soya beans or wheat (trigo) that scatter whenever personnel from GMC unload the materials from the boat — will enter their ears.
He said he detected the presence of the insects believed to be “bunhok (bird louse)” in his residence two years ago.
The concerned resident urged the GMC management and the government to come up with mitigating measures to prevent residents from falling ill.
“Hangyo lang namo sa GMC ug sa gobyerno nga mabutangan lang gyud siguro na’g pader diha para ang ilang abog anha ra nila di moari sa among balay (Our only request to GMC and the government is for them to construct a wall so the dust will not enter our house),” he said, stressing that majority of the 80 affected families cannot afford to go to the doctor if they get sick.
Poblacion Barangay Captain Tirso Tumulak told SunStar Cebu Monday, March 6, that they already sought the assistance of the City Environment and National Resources Office (Cenro) about a week ago regarding the residents’ complaints.
Pajo Barangay Captain Lyndel Bullos, for his part, said the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) also went to the area a week ago to investigate.
Cenro head Dr. Ronaldo Oporto said they already submitted a report to the EMB and the DENR and that they are still waiting for the result of the EMB inspection.
Tumulak quoted Oporto as saying that GMC may be sanctioned by the EMB.
“Mipasalig pod kuno na ang GMC nga duna na silay murag suction nga dili na makoan ang abog (The GMC also assured that it will put up a suction device to suck the dust),” Tumulak added.
Bullos said the affected residents, particularly those near the coastal area, are informal settlers.
Tumulak said the affected residents in Purok Gmelina may have applied for a foreshore lease with the DENR to occupy the area but they, too, are informal settlers and are members of the urban poor.
He said the affected residents live 10 to 20 meters from the GMC wharf.
SunStar Cebu tried to interview the GMC management for its side on March 3, but was informed that the person in charge of the issue was not around. The reporter also wrote a letter requesting an interview, as instructed. The letter contained the contact numbers of the reporter and was handed to the guard.
But as of press time, GMC had yet to reach out to SunStar Cebu.
When sought for comment on the matter, Mayor Junard “Ahong” Chan canceled the two calls made by SunStar Cebu.
A 62-year-old female resident of Purok Gmelina said she has been drinking a herbal medicine for her cough for quite some time now, adding that she can no longer recall how many years they have been affected by the effects of the dust.
“Nagsige na lang ko nga hutuyon ko kada kaadlawon (I often cough every early morning),” said the senior citizen, adding that she has to wipe the dust off her cabinets and floor from time to time.
Another senior citizen said she and her family have developed asthma.
A 40-year-old female resident said they can hardly sleep at night because their skin is always itchy. Apart from that, their laundry tends to be full of dust every time they hang it outside their house.
She said they started experiencing these problems four to five years ago, stressing that several residents already raised their concerns to the barangay, which then reached out to the GMC management but nothing has changed.
Pajo residents’ complaints
Meanwhile, some coastal residents in Barangay Pajo also complained about itchy skin and persistent cough and blamed these on the dust.
They also worry about their safety since the GMC’s bucket conveyor passes above their road that leads to the highway.
A resident said there were instances when hammers and bolts fell to the ground while GMC personnel repaired portions of the bucket conveyor without safety nets.
Apart from that, residents also complained about GMC’s trucks that park along the road leading to the highway as these block the road.
They said an ambulance had a hard time entering the area on Thursday night, March 2, to pick up a patient who was asthmatic.
They said two boats arrive alternately at the GMC port every month with a shipment of soya beans or wheat. GMC personnel usually unload the soya beans or trigo anytime, as long as it’s not raining.
Residents from both barangays said they are happy whenever it rains since the dust “fog” disappears.
Some affected residents in both barangays have gotten used to the noise during the unloading of materials but others think it’s an inconvenience, especially when they try to sleep at night.