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Oil firms, other industries get to stay in Manila

Friday, May 29, 2009 | MANILA, PHILIPPINES [ BusinessWorld Online ]

BY LOUELLA D. DESIDERIO, Reporter


A ZONING PROPOSAL that would ensure the continued operations of all medium and heavy industries in the city of Manila, including oil firms at the Pandacan oil depot, was signed into law yesterday by Mayor Alfredo S. Lim.

The Pandacan Oil Depot can continue operating following approval of a Manila zoning ordinance.

The Pandacan Oil Depot can continue operating following approval of a Manila zoning ordinance. — BW File Photo

"I met with all the stake-holders, formed a committee to study all the aspects of this situation, conducted an ocular inspection ... so in making this decision I assure you that the best interest of the people is what I have in mind," he said prior to signing the ordinance.

Mr. Lim said the city would lose an estimated P100 million if the affected industries relocate, which would mean foregoing basic services such as education and health. Rejecting the ordinance would also result in the loss of 10,000 jobs.

"Vetoing Ordinance 7177 will send the wrong signal to our investors that we are not protecting their continuous tenure in the areas where they operate and that we operate on the whims of politicians," he said.

As for the environmental and safety concerns raised regarding the oil depot, Mr. Lim said he was convinced that the requisite measures were in place.

Ordinance 7177 amends Ordinance 8119, enacted in 2006, which directed all medium and heavy industries to vacate the city in seven years. It also repealed Ordinance 8027, passed in 2001 in the wake of the 9-11 attacks in the US, which reclassified the areas of Pandacan and Sta. Ana as commercial instead of industrial areas.

"We welcome this positive development, which allows us to continue to ensure safe, secure and uninterrupted delivery of petroleum products to our customers and contribute to the wellbeing of our neighbors in Pandacan," Shell Vice-President for Communications Roberto S. Kanapi said in a text message.

Chevron Communications Manager Toby Nebrida echoed this but added that moving out of Pandacan was still in the cards.

"We welcome the move of the mayor but we also realize that there are safety and security concerns for the terminal facility. Sometime in the future, it would have to be moved out," he said in a telephone interview.

Chevron, he said, is currently conducting studies to identify alternative sites for the depot.

Ramon Gil S. Macapagal, vice-president at Unilever Philippines which had threatened to pull out of the country, said the firm was pleased with the mayor’s decision.

"We are pleased about the mayor’s decision citing the need to balance economic and environmental concerns. We feel that there is no need to reject one in order to accept the other," he said in another text message.

The Joint Foreign Chambers, which had urged Mr. Lim to approve the ordinance, said the decision would benefit the country.

"It is good for the City of Manila. It is good for the country. It provides more security for investors and will help us to promote the country as an investment destination better," it said in a statement.

Mr. Lim said his move was aligned with a Supreme Court decision upholding Ordinance 8027. The court, while ordering the mayor to enforce the relocation, has said its decision did not preclude a new law.

Supreme Court spokesperson Jose Midas P. Marquez yesterday said "The new ordinance will have to be implemented unless someone raises its legality in court.

Former Manila mayor and current Environment Secretary Jose L. Atienza, Jr., who has said he would question Ordinance 7177, was not immediately available for comment.

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