SC: Pipe that leaked oil into Makati condo reusable if…
The oil pipeline that leaked and prompted the closure of a Makati City condominium in July 2010 may be reused, but only when its operators have shown satisfactory proof of its safety, the Supreme Court ruled.
In an en banc resolution on Tuesday, the high tribunal ordered the Department of Energy (DOE) to strictly monitor the testing, reinforcement and realignment of the 117-kilometer pipeline that leaked into the basement of the 22-story West Tower condo in Barangay (village) Bangkal and forced the evacuation of its residents.
The leak was traced to grain-sized holes in a portion of the pipeline operated by First Philippine Industrial Corp. (FPIC), just meters away from the building. It runs from Batangas province to Manila, supplying more than 50 percent of the petroleum products for the Pandacan oil depot.
In November 2014, the SC ordered the removal of the depot, citing it as a potential terrorist target endangering the local population, among other reasons. SC spokesman Theodore Te deferred comment on Thursday on why the court was still allowing the pipeline to reopen after the closure order on the depot.
The SC said the pipeline’s owner, the Lopez firm FPIC, can now do a test run and demonstrate its cleaning mechanism, pressure and leakage gauges and gas flow, among others. Only when the firm gets a certification from the DOE can it resume pipeline operations, it said.
In November 2010, the SC issued the country’s first writ of kalikasan shutting down the pipeline as demanded by West Tower residents. It then remanded to case to the Court of Appeals (CA), which was asked to recommend whether or not the pipeline should be reopened.
In a December 2012 ruling, the CA’s 11th Division ordered the FPIC to submit to the SC a DOE certification that the pipeline is safe for commercial operation. It also recommended a course of action for the firm and the DOE.
The latest SC ruling, penned by Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco Jr., was in response to a pleading from West Tower Condominium Corp. to make the Department of Science and Technology—not “the biased and incapable” DOE—do the certification.
But the high court retained the DOE for that role, though it modified the CA’s recommendations.
Also, the SC said “it will refrain from ruling” on the CA’s findings that the officers of the FPIC and First Gen Corp. may not be held liable for the leak. This matter “can be properly resolved in the civil and criminal cases” that West Tower petitioners had also filed against them, it added.
In a statement on Thursday, FPIC said “we accept the SC ruling…and will abide by its directives concerning FPIC’s white oil pipeline and our remediation efforts in Barangay Bangkal.
“FPIC has been working closely with government agencies and has always complied with government regulations concerning our efforts to restore the environmental health of the areas affected by the leak, to ensure the pipeline’s integrity and the return to regular operations of an infrastructure that is vital to the Philippine economy and the lives of thousands of Metro Manilans.”
“The remediation of the affected areas in Bangkal has been continuous to this day,’’ it added.
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