Pandacan Oil Depot Shutdown: Political Will Matters
By John Paolo J. Bencito
Many may criticize Mayor Joseph Ejercito Estrada for the tumultuous changes he has done in the capital city – phasing out buses to avoid traffic, contentious daytime truck bans, penalizing higher rates for traffic violators and much, much more.
But it is undeniable that he has the political will to execute his programs, and it may prove to be a much needed trait to prevent environmental hazards.
We all know that “lack of political will” is the culprit of all poorly performing anti-corruption programs. The ever-complex concept of political will also applies on how you can move mountains, or in the case of the City of Manila – oil depots.
Just recently, the never-ending debacle on whether or not the oil depot in Pandacan district should stay or not may come to an ultimate close as Mayor Erap reaffirms Ordinance No. 8283, which orders the Big 3 – Pilipinas Shell, Petron, and Chevron Philippines to move out of the city by January 2016.
The long scuffle on the issue of the hundred-year stay of the oil depots in the highly-populated city substantially flip-flopped over the years, even reaching the high courts.
Oil depot removal
The oil depot in Pandacan, Manila occupies 33 hectares of land and 313 million liters of gasoline, diesel, bunker oil, LPG, aviation jet fuel and other highly toxic and hazardous chemicals.
The facility supplies 1,800 fuel stations in Metro Manila and nearby provinces; 70 percent of the shipping industry’s fuel requirements; 90 percent of lubricants nationwide; and 75 percent of aviation fuel needs in the country.
The continued operation of the oil depot in a densely populated major city has been a subject of various concerns, including its environmental and health impact to the residents of the adjacent community surrounding the compound, as well as to the larger Manila population.
Various incidents such as in 1999 where the First Philippine Industrial Corporation (FPIC) pipeline running from Batangas to Pandacan was accidentally punctured resulting in an explosion and fire that gutted hundreds of houses and commercial establishments in Muntinlupa City.
The recent oil leakage from the same pipeline in Bangkal, Makati City on July 2010 also caused more than a hundred families to be evacuated because of the toxic fumes leaking from the said facility.
These issues have been raised to the possibility that the same would happen to the oil depot, if not relocated.
Moreover, the University of the Philippines College of Medicine conducted a study and found out that the number of cases of neurophysical disorders in Pandacan have been progressively increasing.
Another health survey proved that the air in and surrounding the oil depot contains high levels of Benzene – a highly volatile compound known to increase the risk of cancer and wreaks havoc on the nervous, respiratory and immune systems.
Furthermore, certain predictions of experts that disaster may come now and within 50 years, such as magnitude 7.2 earthquakes, will put lives and properties of Manileños in grave danger if the oil depot remains within the city limits.
The continued stay of the oil depot in Pandacan poses a clear and present danger to health, lives, and properties of Manileños.
Meanwhile, proposals and demands from oil companies suggest that such removal can result to a shortage of oil products. In addition, they assert that the price of oil products would have to be raised.
Shut down by 2016
After a long battle, unresolved by 3 administrations for more than a decade, efforts to close down the oil depot of multinational firms in Pandacan, Manila, have finally borne fruit.
On April 3, Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada signed letters to Chevron, Petron, and Shell, instructing them to submit their “comprehensive plan and relocation schedule,” as he wants them out by January 31, 2016, or 5 months before his first term as city mayor ends.
Environment groups such as Advocates for Environment and Social Justice (AESJ) based in Pandacan, Manila has actively campaigned for the steadfast and consistent call for the relocation of the oil depot outside of Manila.
This is because of the unimaginable danger and threat it poses to the district of Pandacan, the entire city and nearby towns.
As of now, Petron and Chevron made a commitment that they will relocate before January 2016 in compliance with Manila City Ordinance No. 8283, and will cooperate with the on-going efforts by advocacy groups.
Meanwhile, Shell will wait for the result of their petition before the Makati Regional Trial Court before resolving onto the letter by Mayor Estrada.
The long standing issue to boot the oil depot out of Manila would not be a reality if not for collective action by environment groups and Erap’s re-affirmation.
“Urban renewal” was part of the former President’s 5-point campaign agenda during his 2013 bid for the mayoralty, slamming his 84-year-old predecessor.
He promised that the city council would help push for the passage of ordinances on education, health, and housing.
By Ronald Roy
It’s understandable that for high-profile actor-politicians, nothing is more humiliating than being arrested, handcuffed, brought inside a patrol car with head being shoved into it by a strong hand, fingerprinted, made to pose for mugshots, then locked up in a high-security cell like a “common criminal”.
And the ironic humiliation is devastating for senators, particularly Sen. Bong “Pogi” Revilla and Sen. Jinggoy “Sexy” Estrada, top cinema action stars who not only play roles risking life and limb in heroic defense of the oppressed poor, but were also 2016’s top contenders for president and vice president, respectively, until they were implicated in the scandalous pork barrel scam.
It’s pretty certain that it was Revilla’s bruised pride that made him design and fund his voluntary surrender cum theatrics and fanfare, his egotistical tact fixated on redeeming a tarnished image or worse: delusively reliving his glory days with captive voters with an announcement he might seek the presidency in 2016 . Love him or hate him, you just have to admire the guy’s chutzpah — an attribute that shows that his die-hard fans had elected an unfit person into the senate.
But, well, there’s nothing in the law that prevents Pogi from becoming the first prisoner to run the affairs of our country as its president. After all, he’s still presumed innocent until proven guilty, ‘di ba? That way, he gets to be the first president to pardon himself — hahaha — ‘di ba? But wait, this scenario is not as loony and farfetched as it looks! Seriously, with crazy votes snowballing for him and P-Noy’s popularity steadily vanishing, the indictee’s dream may yet come true!
Reform comes best from the worst of misfortunes like Ondoy’s havoc, Yolanda’s wrath, bloody revolutions, and the Lord’s crucifixion. Yes, no less than the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth was imposed by his Father to reform a sinful world; so, if it takes a catastrophic Revilla presidency to wipe out this generation, then by all means let’s welcome the opportunity to warn the next generation that it will not pay to vote clowns and showbiz “celebs” into public office.
But what if, by some celestial miracle, the Revilla presidency turns out to be a smash hit?! Then, jolly by golly wow, we’ll have to respect the so-called vox populi despite its stupidity, and let all the laugh be on me and other Pogi-bashers!! After all, Dimas the thief and Cupertino the dullard were not barred from becoming saints.
Over a month ago, scuttlebutt had it that, by a vote of 8 to 6, the Supreme Court had thumbed down as unconstitutional the Disbursement Acceleration Program, or DAP, for short, also derisively taken to stand for Drilon, Abad and P-Noy. Shortly after that, rumor circulated that alleged pork barrel brains Janet Lim Napoles had advanced the sums needed to be granted to those senator-judges who had voted to convict then impeachment respondent Chief Justice Renato C. Corona, reimbursable from the DAP fund, which incidentally has come to be known as President Noynoy’s discretionary kitty.
It taxes the imagination to contrive a refutation that the president — who incidentally was the knowledgeable Chair of the Budget Committee when he was a solon — had nothing to do with the DAP’s creation, an act in flagrant violation of the constitution’s express and unequivocal mandate that only Congress can appropriate funds for the operations of government. He adamantly remains in denial mode, although his camp once posited that the DAP’s constitutionality issue had become moot and academic since they had already stopped using the fund. What??? “You cannot arrest me now because I already stopped killing people last year”???
In fairness to Drilon, it may be doubted that he is a co-inventor of the DAP. But, holy macaroni, the heinous culpability of P-Noy and Abad here is as manifest as Satan’s horns, tail and hooves!! It’s an open-and-shut case. No ifs or buts about it, they are both answerable to all Filipinos this very instant!! Huh??? The high tribunal has scrapped, back-burnered or revised its 8 – 6 resolution for hundreds of millions of reasons???
Sorry, but I don’t buy that. These robed men and women of the high tribunal are made of honorable stuff. They are learned and incorruptible. Call me naive, but I prefer to laze in a comfort zone seeing them that way. On the other hand, P-Noy will be hard-pressed to deny that he had made an attempt to cross government officials’ palms with silver. And this is explained by two public perceptions: his notorious temerity for bribing officials, like Corona’s impeachment senator-judges, and his visceral disdain for minority leaders.
Hmmm…who can be certain that the president’s downfall isn’t now being foretold by his own unmitigated chutzpah?