Serendra blast: Whose fault is it?

By Dharel Placido, ABS-CBNnews.com

Posted at Jun 10 2013 02:09 PM | Updated as of Jun 10 2013 11:31 PM

MANILA – Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Manuel "Mar" Roxas II on Monday discussed the next possible moves by the government after it was found out that gas caused the May 31 explosion in Two Serendra.

Roxas, in an interview on ANC's "Headstart," said investigations are still ongoing to determine exactly how gas caused the explosion at unit 501-B of Two Serendra and killed three people.

He said the government will determine the parties who should be held liable after the final result of the investigation.

A week-long inter-agency probe concluded that gas – not a bomb - caused the blast, but how it happened has yet to be determined by a deeper, more scientific probe, Roxas said.

One of the primary parties in the blast is Two Serendra property developer Ayala Land Inc. (ALI). Roxas said charges may be filed against ALI if it committed errors in laying out the centralized pipe-in liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) system in its real property development projects.
ALI may also be charged if it is found to have been remiss in maintaining its centralized LPG system.

Roxas, however, said it is too early at this point to speculate whether ALI should be held liable for the blast.

"As of now, we have no indications yet as to who is at fault. For example, there are safety devices, there are sensors, there are automatic shut off valves. We have to do the forensics to find out: 'Did they work?'" Roxas said.

"That's why I don't want to go far. We basically don't know and the whole point of investigation is to find out what exactly happened," he added.

Roxas said government investigators are not discounting the possibility that the Taguig City government and the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) committed mistakes that resulted in the blast.

He said charges may be filed against the local government of Taguig and BFP if it is found out that they approved building plans without checking the integrity of the piped-in LPG systems.

"If they approved plans that are faulty, then they might also be impleaded or included in whatever cases will be filed. The thing is, right now there are 20 fingers pointing in all sorts of different directions," Roxas said.

"Let's see it step by step, what's the evidence? We have engineers. We have independent engineers who have no contracts with Ayala and/or with Shell who are looking at the plans, and we have foreign engineer-consultants also going to take a look at it," he added.

MERCAPTAN

The gas supplier of the enclave, likewise, may also be held liable if it is found that it did not put mercaptan in its LPG system.

Roxas explained that mercaptan, a gas compound known for its strong odor, is intentionally added to LPG so that it can be easily smelled once gas leaks occur.

"When you buy gasul, the refiller is the one who adds the mercaptan. It comes out if there is leak. You can smell it.," Roxas said, noting that some condo residents reported that they did not smell any foul odor prior to the explosion.

"We're trying to find out the audit trail. LPG, which is 75 percent propane and 25 percent butane, does not have smell."

Bonifacio Gas Corporation, also owned by Ayala, is the supplier of piped gas for establishments at Bonifacio Global City.

Roxas said The Serendra Condominium Corporation has agreed to shut down the entire centralized LPG distribution system in their condo units following the explosion.

Likewise, Roxas said the national and local government of Taguig are now coordinating with property developers in the bustling Taguig City business district to ensure that a similar incident will not happen in the future.

"We need to check the entire system, we need to get a good housekeeping seal," he said.

"We have to make sure that we know exactly what happened so that we can institute the corrective measures."

Government investigators are also looking into the possibility that a recent renovation in the condominium unit contributed to the explosion.

WEATHER NOT A FACTOR

Roxas also dismissed speculations that the hot weather contributed to the explosion, saying other cities who are using centralized piped-in LPG system also experience seasonal heat.

He also said it may be too much to say that centralized piped-in gas system is not meant for the Philippine setting.

Meanwhile, Roxas said additional compensation might be given to the families of the three Abenson employees who were crushed to death by the concrete slab that was thrown off the condo unit.

He said the additional compensation will be determined by the court.

"I understand Anson has helped them. Ayala and Taguig reached out to them. After the investigation, when legal liabilities are established, they might have another look at this thing. So far until we establish legal liability, it's just one theory versus another," Roxas said.