Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A Decisive, Multi-Sided, Environmental, Socio-Political, Economic and Legal Battle Gets Underway at the Pandacan Oil Depot in Manila

19 May 2009

The battle lines have been drawn in what is shaping up to be the Last Battle of the Pandacan Oil Depot.  DENR Secretary and former Manila Mayor Lito Atienza is challenging Mayor Alfredo Lim to veto Ordinance 7177 which was passed by the Manila City Council last Thursday, May 14, amidst minority allegations of railroading by the majority.  The same Ordinance 7177 seeks to contravene a decision by the Supreme Court reiterating its earlier decision to have the depot relocated to a place where it will not threaten the health and safety of Manila residents.

These are the video clips of Secretary Atienza's challenge and the counter-challenge from Vice Mayor Isko Moreno, courtesy of GMAnews.tv: 

Vice Mayor Isko Moreno, who presides over the Manila City Council, favors retention of the oil depot in Pandacan citing economic reasons such as the loss of "thousands of jobs" in Manila if the oil depot is relocated elsewhere.  

Secretary Atienza is vowing to oppose adoption of Ordinance 7177 which means that another legal case might be filed before the Supreme Court once again.  The group Social Justice Society earlier filed a case before the Supreme Court asking the high tribunal to stop City Council deliberations on efforts to amend City Ordinances 8027 and 8119 thru Ordinance 7177.

The "lose thousands of jobs" argument by Vice Mayor Isko Moreno is a significant argument that may be weighed on the basis of our historical experience with the American bases in Clark and Subic.  The pullout of the oil depot will cause job dislocation during the transition period but greater safety of Manila residents and protection of the environment are the trade-offs. Eventually, after the relocation of the oil depot, more beneficial economic activity may be generated by the 36-hectare property for Manila residents if development of the area is done properly, that is, compatible with the greater public interest. 

Prudent governance requires laying down a transition plan (if it isn't there already) as quickly as possible, one that is  acceptable to all stakeholders, guaranteeing as short and as little job dislocation as possible while carrying out the essence of the Supreme Court's decision to relocate the oil depot to address the issues of safety and environment protection.  

A common ground approach among the stakeholders is needed here, but that won't be possible if the political considerations are not eased down considerably.


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