Deadly Cagayan de Oro fire prompts alarm over illegal LPG refilling
CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY – An environmental group urged authorities to look into the operation of illegal re-filling stations for liquified petroleum gas (LPG) here after a Sept. 19 fire that killed a 19-year old man at the village of Balubal.
“The law strictly prohibits the refilling for retail and other purposes of LPG, the leading fuel for home cooking, outside licensed and regulated LPG plants,” said Bencyrus Ellorin, chairperson of Pinoy Aksyon for Governance and the Environment, in a statement.
Ellorin said the fire could have been caused by decanting or refilling small LPG tanks from bigger tanks. “Some retailers resort to decanting from the bigger cylinders to smaller ones like the 11-kilogram and other smaller cylinders to have more profit,” he said.
Republic Act No. 8479, or Deregulation of Downstream Oil Industry Act, prohibits this, Ellorin said.
His group, Pinoy Aksyon, learned that the price of a 50-kilogram LPG tank was cheaper and, though it was against the law, traders could earn a profit if they would retail it in smaller cylinders.
Cpl. Manjo Paasa, of the Puerto police station, said a structure where LPG cylinders were stored caught fire on Sept. 19 at Balubal village, killing Orlie Abellanosa, 19, nephew of the owner of the LPG refilling station.
Abellanosa was rushed to a hospital but died after several hours. His companion, Nino Tapok, 25, was wounded.
Paasa said police were still trying to determine how the fire started but based on his initial investigation, it could have been caused by the transfer of LPG from a bigger container to a smaller one.
“Without the necessary fire safety systems, LPG leaks during the process of decanting,” Paasa said.
“It accumulates in the air and may eventually cause flash fires when it comes in contact with heat, even with just tiny sparks, as what may have happened in Balubal on Sept. 19,” he added.
The fire prompted Pinoy Aksyon to ask the Bureau of Fire Protection and the Department of Energy (DOE) to investigate and put a stop to the illegal, deadly business practice.
The group has partnered with the DOE in the campaign for fire safety in the energy and fuel industry.
Pablo Bactong, Balubal village chairperson, said Abellanosa was the nephew of the owner of the LPG refilling station, identified as Danilo Abellanosa, a former worker of an LPG company who started his operation only a week before the deadly fire.
Bactong said he allowed Danilo to open his business because Danilo had declared he was selling LPG cylinders, not refilling these.
“I would not have allowed him to operate had I known he was into LPG refilling since that required an environment compliance certificate (ECC) and other permits to operate,” Bactong said.
Bactong, however, said Danilo had promised to finance the burial and other expenses for his dead nephew.
Lawyer Jose Edgardo Uy, who heads the city price coordinating council, said in a separate interview that aside from securing an ECC from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the operator of an LPG refilling business must also apply for a license to operate from the energy department.
“You cannot just obtain permits for an LPG refilling business that easily. There are standards that you need to comply with, that would include the equipment and even the vehicles that you are going to use,” Uy said.
City Councilor George Goking, chair of the business and commerce committee, said unsafe business practices should be investigated.
Edited by TSB
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