MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) - The Supreme Court (SC) on Friday granted a petition for a writ of kalikasan stopping the Lopez-owned First Philippine Industrial Corporation (FPIC) from operating an 117-kilometer oil pipeline until the order is lifted.
In a 35-page petition, residents of West Tower Condominium Corp. had asked FPIC and First Gen Corp. to regularly check and issue reports on the structural integrity of the 117-kilometer pipeline from Batangas to the Pandacan oil depot in Manila. Petitioners also asked that the pipeline, built in 1967, remain shut while an independent expert is commissioned to check its integrity.
The petition is in connection with the petroleum leak seeping through West Tower's concrete basement and the rest of Barangay Bangkal since July.
The leak was traced to FPIC's pipeline around 100 meters southeast of West Tower.
Seven kilometers of FPIC's 117-kilometer pipeline is located in Makati.
The writ of kalikasan is "a remedy available to a natural or juridical person, entity authorized by law, people’s organization, non-governmental organization, or any public interest group accredited by or registered with any government agency, on behalf of persons whose constitutional right to a balanced and healthful ecology is violated, or threatened with violation by an unlawful act or omission of a public official or employee, or private individual or entity, involving environmental damage of such magnitude as to prejudice the life, health or property of inhabitants in two or more cities or provinces."
FPIC to comply with ruling
In response to the ruling, First Philippine Industrial Corporation said it "respects the order of the Supreme Court issuing a writ of Kalikasan on the operation of our pipeline."
"This latest development, however, will not prevent us from keeping with our commitment to make sure public security and safety is upheld. This will also give us the opportunity to concentrate on our current efforts to conduct clean-up operations at the West Tower condominium other affected areas of Brgy. Bangkal in Makati City," the FPIC said.
FPIC officer-in-charge (OIC) Anthony Mabasa said: "We will comply with the SC order. In fact, we stopped operations Oct. 28 yet and have been conducting tests and inspection of the pipeline."
Higher fuel costs feared
Meanwhile, an expert warns of the economic implications of the extended closure of the FPIC pipeline, now that the Supreme Court has issued a Temporary Environment Protection Order against its operation.
Professor Leonor Briones of the UP National College of Public Administration and Governance fears higher costs of petroleum products due to scarce supplies, which cannot meet demand.
Affected oil companies Shell and Chevron may also pass on to consumers the additional costs of transporting petroleum products to its customers, she said.
After the closure of the pipeline, oil companies have resorted to using trucks and barges to deliver their inventory to their stations.
The added transportation cost could, in turn, affect the prices of food and other basic commodities.
Briones hopes the problem is only temporary, and would be resolved immediately so as not to affect prices this holiday season where there is increased economic activity.
However, she said that the safety of the residents in Makati should not be compromised and should be the primary concern in this situation.
Operations of several Shell and Chevron stations have been affected because of the extended closure of the pipeline.
Aside from those which already closed temporarily, some stations in Quezon City only carry diesel and unleaded gasoline. Inventories of other Caltex stations are expected to last only until Sunday. -- with reports from Ryan Chua, Pia Gutierrez, Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News