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Manila mayor signs controversial city ordinance

Friday, May 29, 2009 [ manilatimes.net ]

By Ira Karen Apanay, Reporter


DENR chief scores Lim, vows to pursue transfer of oil depot

ENVIRONMENT and Natural Resources Secretary Lito Atienza on Thursday criticized Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim after the latter signed a city resolution that allows the Big Three’s oil depot in Pandacan, Manila.

“He chose to sign an illogical, irrational, illegal ordinance,” said Atienza, referring to City Ordinance 7177 that allows the country’s giant petroleum companies—Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corp., Caltex Philippines Inc. (now Chevron) and Petron Corp. to continue using the oil depots by reverting the classification of their properties into “industrial.”

Lim signed the controversial city resolution on Thursday morning, reasoning that their relocation might bring economic death to the capital.

In a speech, Lim said that transferring oil depots would result in 10,000 job losses. Moreover, foreign investors threatened to withdraw investments from the Philippines should Lim veto the ordinance.

Even with Lim asserting that sovereignty resides in the people, Atienza said the DENR would study the possible violation of Manila City government with regard to provisions in the Constitution on the protection of the environment.

He added that he would defend the transfer of oil depots before the Supreme Court.“We now have to defend in all fora, before the people and in most probability before the court, the Supreme Court,” Atienza said.

But Lim has powerful allies in MalacaƱang in his decision. “The important thing is that we should face the current economic crisis and that’s why the President instructed the members of the Cabinet to give some inputs to Mayor Lim who is the decision-maker in this particular case,” Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said.

“President Arroyo called for an intervention in the process because the SC said in its decision that the Local Government Code shall prevail, leaving it to the local executive to make a decision.”

Reacting to Atienza’s contention that City ordinance 7177 also invites “highly pollutive and extremely hazardous” companies to invest in the city, Chevron Philippines executive Mark Quebral assured that the firm “is equally concerned with the safety and security of the community and the terminal facilities that have been raised by various stakeholders.”

Quebral further said, “Safety and security is a big part of CPI’s culture, which is why [the firm] is continuously upgrading its safety and security measures that are on a par with international safety standards. We intend to continue operating Pandacan safely and reliably.” Petron Corp., for its part, said the signing of the ordinance is a welcome move.

”We welcome this development as it gives us time to work on a well conceived program for the scale down and eventual phase out of the facility with the necessary support of the national and local government,” said Petron executive Virginia Ruivivar.

-- With Angelo S. Samonte

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