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Court voids anti-Shell ordinance

by Rey Requejo
[ ] January 17, 2011
The Court of Appeals has affirmed its decision nullifying an ordinance adopted by Batangas City, which required Pilipinas Shell and all heavy industries on Batangas Bay and nearby areas to each build a desalination plant. That resolution also re-classified the bay area as “heavy industries zone.”
In a resolution, the court’s former 10th division through Associate Justice Rosmari Carandang denied the motion for reconsideration filed by the city to seek the reversal of the May 25, 2010 decision for failing to raise new arguments that would warrant a reversal of its ruling.
The appellate court upheld the petition filed by Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corp. to declare as unconstitutional and invalid Ordinance No. 3, Series 200, which the city approved  on May 20, 2001.
Associate Justices Ramon Garcia and Manuel Barrios concurred with the ruling, which said that the ordinance looked “more of a money-making scheme” of the local government than an ordinance intended to protect the environment.
It also said the ordinance was vague and an overbreadth as it did not define clearly the term “heavy industries” leaving it to the city government the power to classify any industry as such.
The court also pointed out that the ordinance violated the provisions of the Water Code, which vested the National Water Resources Board with the authority to control and regulate the utilization, of water resources.
In requiring the “heavy industries” to install desalination plants to use seawater, instead of ground water, the Batangas city government appropriated the powers of the NWRB to control and deregulate water use, the court said.
The appellate court ruled that the Batangas City government failed to raise new arguments that would warrant the reversal of its decision.
The appellate court likewise said that the newspaper articles presented by the city government in support of the scientific theory on the inevitability of ground water depletion “deserve scant consideration being hearsay evidence and of no probative value.”

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