29 August 2009

Statement: Repeal Ordinance 8187!

AUGUST 25, 2009

Repeal Ordinance 8187! Relocate the Pandacan Oil Depot Now!

The Advocates for Environmental and Social Justice (AESJ) joins other concerned citizens of Manila in pushing for a People’s Initiative aimed at repealing Manila City Ordinance 8187. Approved by Mayor Alfredo Lim and his cohorts in the city council, Ordinance 8187 allows the huge and dangerous oil depot to remain in Pandacan, once more putting profits of the oil companies over and above the health, security and lives of people. The People’s Initiative is a legal instrument by which the people could directly, through a signature campaign and eventually a plebiscite, junk laws and ordinances that go against their welfare.

After the petition of more than 2000 Manila citizen-signatories to repeal Ordinance 8187 has been rejected by the Manila city council, the concerned citizens and groups behind the People’s Initiative are now petitioning the COMELEC to carry out its responsibility under the law to set up the necessary mechanism by which Manila voters through their signatures can signify their opposition to Ordinance 8187. We, the People’s Initiative on Ordinance 8187, are confident in collecting the necessary number of signatures that will pave the way to holding a Manila-wide plebiscite on the Repeal of Ordinance 8187. We hope COMELEC would ensure the realization of a legitimate exercise allowing people to have a decisive say on an issue, that the Supreme Court itself on the oil depot said, is an issue of the right to life.

Oil Depot: a threat to people’s lives

Contrary to claims of the oil companies and their allies in the city government, oil depots can never be safe from accidents caused by technical and human failures and also from terrorist attacks; the catastrophic accidents in oil depots even in highly developed countries prove this. The only safety measure that can be adopted is for them to relocate in areas with sufficient buffer zone from the nearest communities. The various accidents that have occurred over the years within and outside the Pandacan oil depot involving accidental explosions along its pipeline, leaks in its storage tanks, its exploding tankers on the road and the like have simply been lucky close calls. The Pandacan oil depot certainly remains a disaster waiting to happen.

Right to Life and Public Trust Betrayed

The long and difficult struggle to relocate the Pandacan oil depot finally bore fruit with a landmark decision of the Supreme Court in 2008 and which it re-affirmed in 2009. The Supreme Court recognized the validity of City Ordinance 8027 which ordered the relocation of the Pandacan oil depot. It upheld the local government’s powers to enact legislation for the general welfare of the city and even praised the precedence given by the ordinance to the right to life (of the residents) over the right to property and profits (of the oil companies). The Supreme Court thus ordered the phase out and eventual relocation of the Pandacan oil depot.

But within a matter of weeks and against widespread public opposition, Mayor Lim, the vice-mayor and their cohort councilors have railroaded the passage of City Ordinance 8187 which permits highly pollutive and extremely hazardous industries in Manila allowing thus the continued stay of the oil depot in Pandacan. They preferred to betray public trust and serve the interests of the oil companies instead of protecting life, health and the environment.

Alternatives: A Call to Action

Phase out and relocation of the oil depot is the only answer.

The Big 3 (Shell, Caltex, Pteron) and their mouth pieces in the city hall have argued that relocation will result in economic problems because of a loss of livelihood opportunities. Ironically, only 5% of their “employees” are Pandacan residents, and 60% of their employees are contractual and have no security of tenure in their work.

Moreover, relocation does not mean loss of jobs for the general economy but only a relocation of job opportunities to another part of Luzon. The gradual removal and relocation of the oil depot will also actually generate additional employment as more workers will be needed to carry out the process. Meanwhile, current employees are given time to look for other jobs or may be transferred to where the depots will be relocated.

The area occupied by the depot can then be developed anew and pave the way for the establishment of commercial enterprises, service institutions like schools, clinics or hospitals, recreational facilities as well as affordable housing for the urban poor of Manila. The possibilities for development as well as new and more employment opportunities are varied and numerous.

To avoid disaster and to uphold life, health and the environment with these alternatives, we must act swiftly and decisively to repeal City Ordinance 8187 through the People’s Initiative (local initiative) as provided under the Local Government Code.

We Manilenos have filed a petition for local initiative to repeal City Ordinance No. 8187. At least 10% of registered voters in Manila are needed to sign the petition.

We call on fellow Manilenos and concerned citizens to join us in this decisive battle to defend our beloved city from the dangers it faces. We must save Pandacan, we must save Manila!