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Saturday, November 29, 2014

Erap Directed to Oversee Transfer of Oil Terminals Out of Pandacan

Manila yesterday lost its bid to keep the Pandacan oil depots after the Supreme Court (SC) declared unconstitutional an ordinance that allowed the terminals’ continued stay in the city.
“Wherefore, in light of all the foregoing, Ordinance No. 8187 is hereby declared unconstitutional and invalid with respect to the continuing stay of the Pandacan Oil Terminals,” the SC ruled in a decision written by Justice Jose Portugal Perez.
Manila Mayor Joseph Ejercito Estrada, on the other hand, was ordered by the High Tribunal to cease and desist from enforcing Ordinance No. 8187 – approved during the incumbency of former Mayor Alfredo S. Lim and Vice Mayor Isko Moreno – that allowed the continued stay of the oil terminals in Pandacan.
It further ordered Estrada to oversee the relocation and transfer of the oil terminals out of the Pandacan area in coordination with appropriate government agencies and the concerned parties.
Chevron Philippines, Inc., Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corporation, and Petron Corporation, which use the Pandacan oil depot, were given 45 days to submit to the Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) a comprehensive plan and relocation schedule that should be completed not later than six months from the submission of the documents.
In 2007, the SC had affirmed the legality of Ordinance No. 8027 that directed the transfer of the terminals of the three oil companies out of Manila.
However, the City of Manila later passed Ordinance No. 8187 that allowed the continued stay of the oil terminals. Ordinance 8187 revoked Ordinance 8027.
The passage of Ordinance 8187 was challenged before the SC in petitions filed by the Social Justice Society (SJS) and another group.
SC spokesman Theodore O. Te said the High Court “adopted its reasoning in the earlier case (G.R. No. 156052) in sustaining Ordinance No. 8027.”
“The SC cited that the continued stay of the oil depot placed the residents of Manila in danger of being a terrorist target.  In the earlier case (G.R. No. 156052), the Court sustained the validity and constitutionality of Ordinance No. 8027 as a valid exercise of police power because it had: (1) a lawful subject – ‘to safeguard the rights to life, liberty, security and safety of all the inhabitants of Manila’ – and (2) a lawful method – ‘the enactment of Ordinance No. 8027 reclassifying the land use from industrial to commercial, which effectively ends the continued stay of the oil depots in Pandacan.
“The Court, in this present case, stated that it was ‘the removal of the danger to life not the mere subdual of risk of catastrophe, that we saw in and made us favor Ordinance No. 8027. That reason, unaffected by Ordinance No. 8187, compels the affirmance of our Decision in G.R. No. 156052.’” 

In its petition seeking the transfer of the oil terminals out of Pandacan, SJS cited as an example and as a warning the burning of an oil refinery in Ichinara City as a result of a 9.0-magnitude earthquake and a tsunami that hit Japan last March 11.
It told the SC that the transfer of the oil terminals from Manila to less populated area in Luzon could be the best preventive measure to a massive, out-of-control burning of an oil refinery like what happened in Japan.
“The incident that we witnessed in Japan is a forewarning of what may happen to the Pandacan oil depot. The oil companies’ claim about safety is purely theoretical whereas herein petitioners’ claim about the hazard of the oil depot is purely empirical,” lawyer Vladimir Cabigao of SJS said.
He said the tanks and pipelines in the Pandacan oil terminals were not designed to withstand a 9.0-magnitude earthquake.
“Even assuming that they are, the materials and the facility itself would have been decrepit already by today because they have never been upgraded by the oil companies ever since they were constructed fifty or so years ago. Thus, the structural integrity of the pipelines and the oil depots is questionable,” he said.
Estrada said that once the area is vacated, the city will open it to businesses to address the problem of unemployment and to generate more income to pay off the humongous debts of the city from utility companies.
“There are a lot of businessmen who are willing to invest in Manila. We can build a mall or a high-rise building. We can generate a lot of jobs for thousands of people,” Estrada said in an interview.
Vice Mayor Francisco Domagoso said the SC decision sort of upheld the prior ordinance that sought to put an end to the operation of the Pandacan oil depots.
Buhay Party-list Rep. Lito Atienza called for the immediate relocation of the controversial oil depots as he lauded the SC for upholding the removal of the repository considered to be dangerous to the crowded Manila community.
A former Manila mayor, Atienza initiated the removal of the oil depots after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States, saying the move would protect residents from imminent danger of being possible terror target.
The three-term mayor sought the passage by the city council of Ordinance 8027 that reclassified Pandacan from industrial to commercial zone. The ordinance made the putting up of the depots illegal in a commercial zone.
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