Senate to LLDA: Order Tanduay to pay for Laguna 'fish kill'

The Senate committee on environment and natural resources Thursday asked the Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA) to order Tanduay Distillers Inc. to pay for the clean-up of the chemical spill which allegedly caused a fish kill in Laguna Lake.

"We asked [the LLDA] to order Tanduay Distillers to pay for the clean-up as part of penalties under the Clean Water Act [of 2004]," said Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri, whose committee started its probe into the reported fish kill.

The LLDA on Wednesday ordered the company to temporarily shut down its plant, which burned on Oct. 14, discharging alcohol into the Cabuyao River — a stream that flows into Laguna Lake. The agency also ordered Tanduay Distillers to explain its side.

Republic Act 9275 or the Clean Water Act prohibits the discharge of any material that could pollute or impede the natural flow of bodies of water.

The LLDA is claiming that alcohol killed the fish in the immediate area, affecting the livelihood of fishpen operators and small fisherfolk who operate in the lake.

“We welcome the Senate investigation, Wilson Young, president and COO of Tanduay Distillers, told GMANews.TV. “We will help them determine what happened there."

The alcohol flowed into the stream because of the fire, he said. “It was an accident."

On Oct. 21, the LLDA told reporters that it started an investigation after fisherfolk reported that the dead fish from the lake emitted an odor similar to that of alcoholic drinks.

"The pollution that occurred was so extreme that the river beside the Tanduay plant is completely dead," Zubiri said in an interview after the Senate hearing.

“What we have to determine now is if there was really fish kill," Young said.

"Based on this we, want to find out how to avoid similar incidents in the future," he added.

Zubiri said that his committee has ordered the LLDA to conduct a full-blown investigation, and that an LLDA hearing will be held on Nov. 2 to assess the damage caused by the alcohol spill.

He noted that the cleanup will probably cost tens of millions of pesos. Under RA 9275, failure to undertake clean-up is punishable by two to four years imprisonment and a fine ranging from P50,000 to P100,000 for each day of violation.

On the other hand, failure to clean up resulting in serious injury or loss of life is punishable by six to 12 years imprisonment and a fine of P500,000 for each day of violation.

"We have ordered (the LLDA) to stand by its mandate to penalize the erring company. They will pay for the cleanup — they can well afford it," he said.

What's more important, Zubiri said, is that Tanduay Distillers will revive the Cabuyao River and the livelihood opportunities that were affected by the spill. — DM/VS, GMANews.TV