Condo still oozing with oil every day

Rey T. Salita & Alena Mae S. Flores
Tuesday, January 18, 2011

ABOUT 4,000 liters of petroleum products continue to leak into the basement of the West Tower Condominium in Makati daily, residents complained Monday as they vowed to file civil and criminal charges against Pilipinas Shell and Chevron Philippines and the owner of the leaking pipeline they use.

“It has been six months since their products spilled into the basement, putting this community in imminent danger of fire and explosion while exposing residents, especially children, to long-term health hazards,” said Lorna Kapunan, a resident and legal counsel of the unit owners.

Kapunan accused the owner of the pipeline, First Philippine Industrial Corp., of issuing misleading reports to the press that it had begun remedial measures to clean up the leak that has accumulated under the condominium in Bangkal, Makati. “These are all media pronouncements but nothing happens in truth. These are all lip service and nothing gets done to solve the danger,” Kapunan said.

She also criticized the oil companies for failing to take responsibility for the environmental mess. “Shell or Chevron have not made any serious effort to help contain the spill … and attend to the health concerns of the residents,” Kapunan said in a statement.

Shell and Chevron use the First Philippine Industrial Corp. pipeline running to Manila from Batangas to transport their petroleum products to the Pandacan depot. “If Shell and Chevron were diligent enough in monitoring [First Philippine] in their oil deliveries, and demanded that the leaks be investigated and plugged immediately as early as July, this would not have gone to this extent,” Bobby Dimayuga, head of West Tower Condominium Corp., said.

The West Tower Condominium has hauled off more than 380,000 liters of pure petroleum products from its basement as of Jan. 16. CH2M Hill Philippines Inc., the US environmental remediation company engaged by First Philippine Industrial Corp., estimates that more than 1.8 million liters of petroleum are still in the affected area. “How could Shell, Chevron and FPIC not have known they were losing this much fuel?” Dimayuga said.

He was skeptical of First Philippine and CH2MHill’s estimate that it would be safe for the residents to move back into their condominium units by July, saying a number of the owners were inviting company officials and their families to stay there for free while the remediation was ongoing.

Last week, CH2MHill senior environmental geologist Edmund Piquero said a July target was possible, but the clean-up would have to pass government scrutiny. The Makati City government ordered 80 families living in the condominium evacuated in July after confirming a leak in First Philippine’s petroleum pipeline.

Condominium residents called on the Environment Department to ensure that the clean-up commplied with international standards and the Clean Air and Clean Water laws. They also called on the Energy Department to make sure that the pipeline was structurally sound before it could be reopened.

In November 2010 the residents asked the Supreme Court to order the company to shut down and replace the damaged pipeline. They also asked the high court to compel its owner to rehabilitate the area affected by the oil leak.

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