ORMOC CITY – A fire broke out inside the plant premises of the Philippine Associated Smelting and Refining Corporation (PASAR), the country’s only copper smelter located at the Leyte Development Industrial Estate in Isabel, Leyte, some 45 kilometers away, at around 6:05 this morning, January 2.
Firefighters from the company itself, its neighbor PhilPhos, and from the towns of Isabel, Merida, Kananga and Ormoc City battled with the blaze for around three hours until it was declared “under control” by around 9:00 AM. “Fire out” was declared at around 10:00 AM, said a reliable source who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to issue statements.
No casualties or injured people and workers were reported initially, but later, one worker reportedly sufffered minor burns.
The source added that the fire broke out at the acid plant of PASAR and it was a major fire considering it took three hours to put it under control. Eleven fire trucks responded to the scene. He described the vicinity as a “very restricted area” of the plant that even policemen were not allowed to enter the area to beef up security.
PASAR produces copper cathodes and in the process of extracting copper, also extracts significant amount of raw gold or dore and other precious metals, hence the tight security.
Until now, the cause of the fire and estimated damage remains unknown. Isabel Fire Marshall Insp. Hermes Cadion, when reached on his cell phone, said he cannot entertain this reporter as yet, as he was still at PASAR conducting an investigation into the incident. They are still assessing the extent of the damage.
Meanwhile, J. Paul R. Tan, assistant vice-president for industrial and community relations department, said “we are still conducting an investigation on the cause of the incident and extent of the damage”.
On the other hand, Isabel residents nearby reached for their version of the fire story said they felt it was a huge fire judging from the huge smoke that billowed.
For his part, Isabel police chief Sr. Insp. Joel Camacho said his force also provided security to the company but he was not the right person to give media comments about the incident. “It should be the fire marshall”, he advised.
(At the time of this report, it was not yet clear if the fire caused a stoppage in PASAR’s operations. Later, however, management said operations had to stop but assured regular workers they will continue to report to work and be paid. Management said it would take the hiatus as a chance to spruce up the plant while wating for new devices to arrive as replacement for the burnt equipments- LMJ)