Tuesday, 19 April 2016

"There are no oil containers at Pandacan anymore."

"There are no oil containers at Pandacan anymore."

Source: Inquirer.net

It's been months passed since people seen this place beside the Pasig River. 

Be it via PUP Sta. Mesa or at the Mabini Bridge in Nagtahan, that place consists of steel containerts had been part of everyone's lives, be it the "car buffs" whose petrol coming from "Big Three" oil companies been stored prior to distribution in every branch, or the mediapeople given that the place as a center of attention when it comes to increasing oil prices that triggered protests after showing it in newspaper or in television. 

And that place was known as the "Pandacan oil Depot", one of the few once-industrial districts of then growing City of Manila.

Source: Wilberchie's world
According to Wikipedia, the Oil Depot started when Royal Dutch Shell established facilities in 1914, followed by Caltex that began using the Pandacan warehouse depot in 1917 as it started marketing its products in the Philippines, however its warehouse depot was converted into a key distribution terminal to bring products to nearby provinces eleven years later. While Petron, originally known as Esso Mobil, started operations in 1922.

The depot, like other strategic areas of the capital, had also suffered from destruction if not being a subject of various concerns. World War 2 for example, it was bombed by Japanese (in 1942) and Allied planes given its importance such as storing petrol for the armed forces. But after being rebuilt few years after the war, operation increased with oil companies trying to accommodate post-war demands. 

However, having a continued operation of the oil depot in suddenly densely populated major city has been a subject of various issues, especially those of its environmental and health impact to residents from its adjacent community surrounding the compound, as well as to the larger Manila population. The MalacaƱang Palace, the official residence of the President of the Philippines, is only two kilometers away from the depot. While the Polytechnic University of the Philippines, the largest university in the Philippines in terms of student population (approx. 40,000), is located directly across from the depots on the banks of the Pasig River.

And last 2005, the UP College of Medicine at the University of the Philippines Manila conducted the cross-sectional study which found that the number of cases of neuro-physical disorders in the area surrounding the depot have been progressively increasing. In that same year, a health survey proved that the air surrounding the oil depot contains high levels of benzene, a chemical compound known to increase risks of cancer.

Source: Inquirer.net 
Source: Interaksyon
There were also incidents surrounding the depot and its pipelines that somehow justified its removal. In 1997, two Shell oil tankers exploded inside the oil depot complex. And in 1999, a pipeline leak was the source of fires in Muntinlupa City, killing one.  In January 2008, a tanker burst into flames at the foot of the Nagtahan fly-over.  In July 2010, the leak of the underground pipeline of the First Philippine Industrial Corporation (FPIC), which carries oil from the oil refineries in the province of Batangas to Pandacan, caused the contamination of water bed table at the basement of West Tower Condominium in Bangkal in Makati City. And in 2013, the Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA) General Manager Nereus Acosta fined the operator of the depot with P200,000 daily due to environmental violations in the Pasig River, which runs from Manila Bay towards Laguna Lake.

The depot was also subject from terrorist attacks in recent years, the place itself, situated right in the middle of the city where residents have built houses even beside the perimeter fence of the oil depot be more prone to a disastrous explosion. It also figured that an oil depot explosion could result in a two-kilometer radius of devastation that would reach up to MalacaƱang Palace according to a 2001 report by Aidan Tasker-Lynch, an Irish expatriate and an expert on disaster management, who conducted a study on the effects of petrochemical industries on the population.

Source: Manila Bulletin
But regardless of the incidents and threats surrounding the area, as well as earlier statements from concerned groups calling for its removal, operations continued still with the "Big 3" trying to meet demands from its consumers. The depot was 100 years prior to its final decision from the courts leading to its closure and dismantlement of these iconic containers. 

Prior to that, there were attempts by the City government over keeping the deport at Pandacan or moving altogether even outside Manila. In 2001, the Manila City Council passed Ordinance No. 8027 that changed the classification of Pandacan from an industrial to a commercial district, as well as gave the oil depot six months to cease operating in the area. In 2006, Ordinance No. 8119 ordered the phasing out of hazardous industries in the city, including the depot. In 2009, Ordinance 8027 was upheld by the Supreme Court while the City Council passed Ordinance No. 8187 to negate the first ordinance. This time, Pandacan was reverted to its earlier classification as a heavy industrial zone, allowing the depot to operate. In 2012, Ordinance No. 8283 again re-classified the area as a high-intensity commercial zone, thus giving the oil depot until 2016 to relocate, but was vetoed by then Mayor Alfredo Lim. The proposal instead is to transfer the facilities to the North Harbor, which is still in Manila.
And in March 2015, the Supreme Court finally dismissed the motions filed by oil giants Shell and Caltex as it declared that its decision ordering the transfer of the Pandacan oil depot as final. With a vote of 10-2, the high court declared unconstitutional Manila ordinance 8187 that allowed the oil storage facilities to remain in the city. The high court also ordered Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada to cease and desist from enforcing Ordinance No. 8187 and coordinate with appropriate government agencies in overseeing the relocation and transfer of the oil terminals out of Pandacan. The high court also echoed its decision in affirming Manila Ordinance 8027 where it cited that the continued stay of the oil depots placed the residents of Manila in danger of being a terrorist target. Hence, ordinance 8027, approved in 2001, pushes for the removal of the depot in Manila.

source: MetroCebu
Given that International standards allow oil depots to operate within a 20-kilometer radius buffer zone, away from residential and commercial establishments. The removal of the depot from a densely-populated area be deemed "just" plus the decisions made by the Supreme Court over the ordinance made by the Manila City government.

However, on the other hand, the 101-year old depot be also considered as a heritage site as any other historical site in Manila. To an industry enthusiast, the place itself, like the Stripped Clasical Magnolia in Echague or the Futuristic Flour silos of Pasig, these steel containers is part of a century wherein Manila been developed into a modern urban metropolis. True that there are dangers that justified the depot's closure and its moving, what more of its dismantlement of those iconic structures;

But to think that there are no containers left at Pandacan, this person thinks why not even a single container, be it an empty oil tank or a container storing water, to serve as a reminder of what the compound once was?