Last April 6, Sunday, I was attending a musical rehearsal in Pasig City. We were going through some trip-hop compositions in preparation for a live gig on the radio the next day when suddenly, there was this smell of nail polish in the air.
We were in an air-conditioned apartment complex, and this great big chemical smell of nail polish or varnish was seeping in. We opened the windows thinking it would drive the smell out. Rather the smell came in more. Thinking it may have been some accident in a neighboring apartment, we went into the hallway to see if the smell was only in our unit. Outside, the smell was positively noxious.
People were running out of the apartment’s swimming pool, covering their noses. Across the road at the gas station, the attendants and cashier were wearing handkerchiefs on their faces like western bandits. A stray dog was going crazy from the smell, chasing its tail in vain. People were leaving the apartment complex in a mass exodus of coughing and covered mouths. And to top it all off, our eyes were red and irritated. We doused face towels in cold water to keep our eyes moist and quickly left that area.
Initial conversations with the village security guards told us that the culprit was a nearby chemical factory that was making resin products– probably Rugby or Epoxy cement glue. The factory was about a kilometer away. And it was a Sunday. No work, therefore probably no people in the plant. Rumor had it that the factory’s lone security guard had died from the fumes.
And just this week, I found this in the newspaper:
Philippine Daily Inquirer: Tuesday April 15, 2003: METRO : page A23
Firm in Poisoning Case Operating Without A Permit
By Nelson F. Flores
PASIG City Mayor Soledad Eusebio yesterday said the factory that caused mass poisoning in one of the densely populated neighborhoods in the city two weeks ago is illegally operating.
Eusebio said records of her office showed that Resin-1 Chemical Corp. has yet to secure a mayor’s permit to operate.
She added that the absence of a mayor’s permit is a ground for closure.
“Aside from operating without the necessary permit, the plant has violated several city ordinances, including one which states that no person shall dispose toxic and hazardous waste without first securing a written authority from the mayor,” Eusebio said.
Early last week, Eusebio asked the Resin-1 owners to relocate their business in other areas of Metro Manila.”Hindi importante ang buwis nilang ibinabayad ang mahalaga ay buhay ng aking mga constituents (The lives of my constituents are more important than the taxes paid by the firm)”, Eusebio said.
Eusebio also directed the city legal office to determine whether Resin-1 could be held liable for the incident even while the local office of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources is conducting its own investigation. She added that clean-up operations are still going on.
Eusebio said toxic fumes leaked from chemical agent containers, which exploded due to prolonged exposure to the searing heat on April 6, causing at least 14 people, mostly children, to become sick and be hospitalized.
She added that local barangay authorities had reported that more than 200 people had complained of poisoning symptoms like dizziness, headaches, chest and stomach pains and vomiting.
Eusebio added that the factory, which manufactures vinyl and paste products, would remain closed until the factory owners corrected the problem. Eusebio also revealed that the chemical company is owned by Meneleo Carlos, father of Marikina City Mayor Marides Carlos-Femando, the wife of Metropolitan Manila Development Authority Chair and Public Works Secretary Bayani Femando.
Meanwhile, one of the victims of the mass poisoning case died on April 8. The fatality was identified by city government officials as Luciano Verjes, 68, a resident of Joe Boris Street, Barangay Bagong Ilog, the area severely affected hy the contamination. He died while undergoing treatment at the Immaculate Conception Hospital after inhaling the toxic fumes emitted by the firm.