Mayor Estrada happy over SC order; Petron says it will comply | Inquirer News

Mayor Estrada happy over SC order; Petron says it will comply

MANILA, Philippines–Manila Mayor Joseph “Erap” Estrada said on Tuesday that he was “happy” with the Supreme Court’s decision ordering the transfer of the Pandacan oil depot to a new location since it would eliminate the danger it posed to the community.

According to him, the ruling complemented his own intention to have the area which sits in the middle of six barangays (villages), cleared of the oil facility.

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“In fact, three or four months ago, I [issued] an order through a letter to the oil companies, giving them up to Jan. 30, 2016, to vacate the place. At least I am sustained by the Supreme Court,” said Estrada.

He added, however, that the city government would follow the deadline set by the high court for the relocation.

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Estrada said he believed the depot was not only a major threat to residents but also to the nearby Malacañang Palace.

“If a tank explodes, even Malacañang could be affected. I am after the safety of the people which is why I am happy with the decision,” he told the Inquirer.

When asked about the economic impact posed by the facility’s removal from the area, he reiterated that his priority was the safety of residents.

Once the area is cleared, Estrada said the city would open it to private investors who could develop it as a commercial space. These investments would open up new opportunities for residents who stand to lose from the facility’s transfer.

The three oil companies using the depot have been operating it for decades. Considered the largest and most important oil facility in the country, the Pandacan depot supplies 70 percent of the shipping industry’s needs; 90 percent of lubricant requirements; 75 percent of all aviation fuel needs, and 25 percent of the demand for chemicals.

Sought for comment, Petron Corp., the country’s largest oil refiner and retailer, gave its commitment to abide by the Supreme Court order.

“We will comply,” was the reply via text message sent to the Inquirer by Petron chair Ramon S. Ang who added that he has yet to check on the progress of the company’s plans to move out of the area by 2016.

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Petron has long announced that it would be moving out of Pandacan by 2016 and that it was investing some $500 million to complete its relocation to five different sites in Luzon, including Batangas and the Manila North Harbor. Last year, Petron was reported to be building petroleum product storage facilities in Cavite, Navotas and Bataan which would serve as new locations for the company’s depot operations.

Chevron Philippines, meanwhile, declined to “fully comment” on the decision as it has yet to receive a copy.

Raissa Bautista, the company’s policy government and public affairs manager, however, pointed out that Chevron has not used the facility since June.

“Our last barge delivery into Pandacan was May….Supply of fuels and lubricants to our customers are currently being withdrawn via our other supply facilities,” Bautista explained.

“While Chevron has ceased terminal operations in Pandacan, what remains now is just its governance role in Pandacan Depot Services Inc. (PDSI), which is the joint venture operating the Pandacan facility and equally owned by Chevron, Shell and Petron,” she added.

Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corp., for its part, also declined to comment.

“We have yet to receive the court order to enable us to comment further. Rest assured that Shell will observe the rule of law and good governance,” said Ramon del Rosario, vice president for communications.

Lawyer Samson Alcantara, president of Social Justice Society which filed the case in the high court, lauded the decision.

“The SJS expresses its deep gratitude to the High Court for its decision that finally settles the question of whether a serious threat to the lives and safety of Metro Manila residents should be allowed to remain in the heart of the city,” he said in text message.–With Jerome Aning

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TAGS: Joseph Estrada, Manila, oil depot, Pandacan, Petron, Reaction, Supreme Court order
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