Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Pandacan Oil Depot (Police Power vs Capital Power) [Second of 2 parts: Ordinance No. 8187 and G.R. Nos. 187836 and 187916)

By Siesta-friendly

As we discussed in Part 1, the first challenged Ordinance (No. 8027) – which reclassified the Pandacan area from Industrial to Commercial and ordered industrial businesses like the oil industries maintaining depots in the area to cease and desist from operating – was held as constitutional by the SC. 

In an about-face, Manila city hall then issued Ordinance No. 8187 for the purpose of reclassifying (again) the Pandacan area by creating a Medium Industrial Zone and Heavy Industrial Zone thus allowing oil depots to continue to exist in Pandacan.  

If your first ordinance was upheld by the Supreme Court as a valid exercise of police power because it aimed “to safeguard the rights to life, security and safety of the inhabitants of Manila”, why not issue another ordinance to repeal it, completely contradict it and forget about that small concern regarding the life, security and safety of the inhabitants of Manila. 

Let us allow the SC to explain why –

“… the position of the Sangguniang Panlungsod on the matter has thrice changed, largely depending on the new composition of the council and/or political affiliations. The foregoing, thus, shows that its determination of the “general welfare” of the city does not after all gear towards the protection of the people in its true sense and meaning, but is, one way or another, dependent on the personal preference of the members who sit in the council as to which particular sector among its constituents it wishes to favor.”

Mindful that the safety of the Manileños were still at risk, the SC continued -

“Now that the City of Manila, through the mayor and the city councilors, has changed its view on the matter, favoring the city’s economic-related benefits, through the continued stay of the oil terminals, over the protection of the very lives and safety of its constituents, it is imperative for this Court to make a final determination on the basis of the facts on the table as to which specific right of the inhabitants of Manila should prevail…”

Thus, the SC struck down Ordinance No 8187 as invalid and unconstitutional for the same reasons it upheld the constitutionality of Ordinance No. 8027, further saying that -

“The issue of whether or not the Pandacan Terminal is not a likely target of terrorist attacks has already been passed upon in G. R. No. 156052.  Based on the assessment of the Committee on Housing, Resettlement and Urban Development of the City of Manila and the then position of the Sangguniang Panlungsod, the Court was convinced that the threat of terrorism is imminent. It remains so convinced.

… the very nature of the depots where millions of liters of highly flammable and highly volatile products, regardless of whether or not the composition may cause explosions, has no place in a densely populated area. Surely, any untoward incident in the oil depots, be it related to terrorism of whatever origin or otherwise, would definitely cause not only destruction to properties within and among the neighboring communities but certainly mass deaths and injuries.


It is the removal of the danger to life not the mere subdual of risk of catastrophe, that we saw in and made us favor Ordinance No. 8027. That reason, unaffected by Ordinance No. 8187, compels the affirmance of our Decision in G.R. No. 156052.”

And so, the SC finally set a definite period for the relocation of the oil depot -

“The oil companies shall be given a fresh non-extendible period of forty-five (45) days from notice within which to submit to the Regional Trial Court, Branch 39, Manila an updated comprehensive plan and relocation schedule. The relocation, in turn, shall be completed not later than six months from the date of their submission.”

We expect this to be the last we hear of the continued stay of the depots even though there is a new mayor in Manila, different from the mayor who signed Ordinance No. 8027 and different from that who signed Ordinance No. 8187.It was the Supreme Court that had to remind local legislators that they are supposed to have the welfare of the people foremost in mind.

The Pandacan Oil Depot (Police Power vs Capital Power) [First of 2 parts: Ordinance No. 8027 and G.R. 156052]


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