Petron and Shell said the SC decision might have been based on an old ordinance.
The decades-old Pandacan oil depot, which survived the Japanese bombing
in 1941 and the burning of Manila in 1945 and in whose shadow a
community has thrived for ages, may be nearing its demise.
The Supreme Court's First Division, citing the dangers the
30-hectare depot posed to residents, ordered yesterday the closure of
the American-era facility and the reclassification of the districts of
Pandacan and Santa Ana from industrial sites into commercial areas.
The country's top three oil companies: Petron Corp.,
Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corp., and Chevron (formerly Caltex),
operate the depot, which is near the Pasig River. The depot, which
currently holds about 170 million liters of oil, supplies half the
country's fuel requirements and 90 percent of Metro Manilas.
The Arroyo administration welcomed the SC order.
"From a security, environmental and safety standpoint, it is
not good that such oil depots would be located in the middle of Manila
with so many families and residents around them," Executive Secretary
Eduardo Ermita said at a briefing. "Imagine if there would be an
"The main concern of this government is a stable supply of fuel and safety," said Palace spokesman Ignacio Bunye.
Malacañang Palace is just more than a kilometer from the depot.
In issuing the order, the SC granted the petition filed by the
group Social Justice Society and Manila residents Vladimir Cabigao and
Bonifacio Tumbokon for the enforcement of city Ordinance 8027 calling
for the dismantling of the depot. The ordinance was enacted in November
2001 following the Sept. 11 terror attacks on the US.
The Manila city government led by Mayor Lito Atienza was the
respondent in the petition. Justice Renato Corona penned the 12-page
The SC said there was basis for the concerns that the depot is
a terrorist target and may endanger the lives of Manila residents
living around it. Aside from terror attacks, the petitioners feared an
accident at the depot might spark a conflagration that could spread to
The petitioners said the city government deferred the
enforcement of Ordinance 8027 after the oil firms agreed in June 2002
to scale down the depot�s operations by 40 percent and to set up a
green buffer zone around it. But the memorandum of agreement, which was
also signed by the energy department and ratified by the city council,
was good for only six months. The city council later agreed to extend
the agreement to April 2003, prompting the filing in December 2002 of
the petition for the enforcement of Ordinance 8027.
"The objective of the ordinance is to protect the residents of
Manila from a catastrophic devastation that will surely occur in case
of a terrorist attack on the Pandacan Terminals. No reason exists why
such protective measure should be delayed," the SC said.
"Thus at present, there is nothing that legally hinders respondent from enforcing Ordinance 8027," the SC added.
"He (Atienza) has no other choice. It is his ministerial duty to do so," the SC said.
Atienza, in his defense, insisted that the MOU only provided
the guidelines for the full implementation of the ordinance and that
while it "superseded" the ordinance, the MOU was not intended to stop
Presidential Security Group (PSG) chief Col. Romeo Prestoza
said the depot has long been a "safety rather than a security" concern
"There are too many houses that are close to the oil depot. I
don�t think firefighters and chemicals would be able to act fast enough
to save lives and property in the event of a major explosion where the
conflagration spreads quickly," Prestoza told The STAR.
He said the PSG has contingency plans in the event of an
accident or an attack on the oil depot. He said in other countries, oil
depots are located far from residential areas.
"The subject Ordinance 8027 of the SC decision has been
superseded by Order 8119 or the Comprehensive Land Use Plan of Manila.
The CLUP gives oil companies a seven-year period to relocate its
terminals," Petron public affairs manager Virginia Ruivivar said.
"We are not a party to this. But I think the subject of the SC
decision (Ordinance 8027) has already been superseded," Shell external
affairs general manager Roberto Kanapi said.
"We also went to the court to question the validity of the
Ordinance 8119 which is now pending at the Regional Trial Court of
Manila," he said. A source said the oil firms would have to file a
motion for intervention if they want to stop the SC from enforcing the
"They do not want to make any moves yet as of now but this is
one of the possible moves they may consider," he said. An industry
official who declined to be named said the hauling costs of the three
oil firms would increase if they were to relocate their tanks from
"I don't know if the oil companies will be able to absorb the extra costs of relocation or pass these on to consumers," he said.
Shell supplies its tanks in Pandacan through a pipeline from
its Batangas refinery while Petron hauls finished products from its
refinery in Bataan.
of the petitioners, Vladimir Cabigao, said he is preparing to file a
graft case against Atienza in connection with the latter's failure to
promptly implement Ordinance 8027.
He also said he is optimistic that the SC will eventually
uphold the ruling of the First Division in case the city government or
the oil companies make an appeal.
"I do not see the SC would overturn itself because it (the
decision) was based on sound legal principle," Cabigao said. The city
government has 15 days upon receipt of the order to file a motion for
Cabigao said he would use the SC ruling as basis for the graft case he planned to file against Atienza.
"I will see to it that this time he (Atienza) will get
convicted. It is a ground for criminal case because it was a
ministerial duty, he has no discretion on whether or nor the Ordinance
should be implemented," Cabigao added.
He said he had a personal stake in the issue because he lived
some 500 meters from the depot and that he had sleepless nights after
the Sept. 11 attacks fearful of a terrorist strike on the depot.
Cabigao's uncle Felicismo was a Manila vice mayor during the tenure of
Mayor Antonio Villegas.
Atienza, for his part, said the city government will not
contest the SC decision saying the delays in the implementation of
Ordinance 8027 were due to "realistic requests" from the oil firms, the
energy department, the Metro Manila Development Authority, and even the
"We hope there would no longer be any cause of delay. We have
already given the oil companies six years - enough time for them to
properly move out," Atienza said.
Commenting on Cabigao's threats to sue him for graft, Atienza
said: "I cannot say what they want to do, I don�t know their intentions
but as for me, my intention is for public service."