Stepping Up Pollution Control and Security Measures at Pandacan Oil Depots

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(Continued from yesterday)(LAST PART)Scare-mongering heats up anew versus the Pandacan oil depots.The scale of issues no longer centers just on potential security threats, but also on ‘science question’ that the oil terminals may be destroying ecological balance in areas where they operate.These same concerns have been the subject of full-throttle debates in various stakeholder dialogues and consultations, pleadings and even oral arguments before the Courts just to flesh out reasons why or why not the oil terminals be allowed an extended stay in their current site.Although the oil companies’ opponents may strenuously deny that the whole thing smells of a political plot, it is puzzling that the fixing strategy misses some points -- primarily the economic consequences for the country and the opportunity and job losses that may ensue with the closure or relocation of the depots and other industrial firms in Manila.With roughly 10,000 Filipinos losing their jobs, that also redounds to ‘security threats’ on human existence.No question that even Barack Obama, president of the world’s most powerful country, is grappling to provide employment opportunities for his constituency. In fact, reports of weaker-than-expected employment figures in the United States are still crashing hopes of any immediate global economic recovery.The oil companies’ imprimatur to subject their depot operations to a third party risk assessment opens a perfect venue for all parties concerned to lay their cards on the table and verify presumptions.“We hope that the third party assessment will lay all the issues to rest by providing an objective and fact-based evaluation of the Pandacan depot’s safety and environmental management systems,” Mr. Recto noted.The independent risk assessment, according to Mr. Kanapi, shall be undertaken on a very transparent process and the results will also be made public. The oil firms proposed tapping risk assessor that is among the world’s top 10, and should be of high competence and credibility. He explained that the selection process will involve all concerned stakeholders, including the Church, government, business and city hall officials.Primacy of human livesSure, human lives are of highest importance, and that cannot be bargained at any price or whatever magnitude of investment dollars. But what if problem-assessments are merely anchored on wrong assumptions?Be cautioned that there is also what they call “the tragedy of wrong solutions”.The Atienza et al filing at the Supreme Court cited the explosion of an oil tanker near the exit gate of Pandadacan terminals in January 2008 as an example of a security threat. But shouldn’t danger be lurking larger if we let more oil tankers on the road when the depots are relocated somewhere else?“Safety of our personnel and safety of the community has always been a priority. We hope the study will allay safety concerns,” Mr. Quebral enthused.No wizard of any kind can just readily conclude that since the ‘Twin Towers’ in New York and the five-star hotels in Jakarta were attacked by terrorists, the oil depots are automatically probable targets. Or to say that: since oil is labeled as a ‘dirty fuel’, it pollutes the Pasig River.Hard facts, evidence and analysis of data can’t just be simply missed out or set aside here. For the ‘true wizards’ of policymaking, these are the problem-solving tools that will guide them into decision-making processes.Operational standardsThe manner of operations at the Pandacan depots, the oil companies explained, goes through arrays of checks and also follows environment, health and safety standards.Apart from the propounded independent risk assessment, the oil firms said the Pandacan oil facilities are being subjected to regular safety and environmental third party inspections by the DENR, Department of Energy, Bureau of Fire Protection, Laguna Lake Development Authority and the Manila City government, among others, as a way of ensuring that they adhere to stringent safety, security and environmental standards. …