Oil depot violates zoning, sanitary laws
MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) - Aside from violating environmental laws, the oil depot that leaked 500 to 1,000 liters of oil into the Pasig River also violated zoning, sanitary and electrical regulations, officials said on Tuesday, June 25.
Bureau of Permits officials closed the Larraine's Marketing (LM) oil depot at 6 p.m. on the same day. Richard Zacarias of the Bureau of Permits said LM's business permit has been revoked and can only be renewed if the facility complies with all regulations and ordinances.
After an inspection and meeting with Manila City Administrator Jesus Marzan, Resty Rebong, officer-in-charge of the City Planning and Development office of Manila revealed that Larraine's Marketing (LM) did not secure a permit to run an oil depot in the middle of a residential district.
No zoning permit
According to Ordinance 8119 issued in 2006 by the Manila City Hall, potentially hazardous facilities storing combustible material such as oil should be at least 200 meters away from residences.
But the LM facility itself is home to families of employees living in shanties right beside the gate. The LM facility stands beside houses in Barangay 890, Sta. Ana. Down the road is an elementary school and wet market.
Rebong said LM was never issued a special permit that would have allowed them to operate in the area. Inspectors from his department visited the depot before but were told by LM employees that they have a business permit.
Despite LM being in operation for 20 years without zoning permits, zoning inspectors have never set foot inside the facility until after the oil spill.
"We do not have police power to check the nature of this business. As you can see, their walls are very high. We could not see from the outside what was inside the facility," Rebong explained.
No sanitary permit
It was the same story for sanitary permits.
Engineer Mitzie Salvador, head of Manila's sanitation department, said that LM did not even apply for a sanitary permit for 2013 and the previous years, a violation in itself.
They also did not comply with regulations requiring an interceptor to separate bunker oil from water. This means that water contaminated with oil discharges directly into the river.
Asked why sanitary inspectors only got wind of LM violations after the oil spill, Salvador explained that the department does not have a mission order for 2013. The mission order, issued annually, allows the department to inspect all suspicious facilities. Without the mission order, only facilities who applied for permits can be inspected.
Although usually issued at the start of the year, the mission order was delayed because of the 2013 elections, said Salvador.
But she gave assurances that the mission order will be given in July.
As for her department's next step, she said, "We will recommend them for closure right away. We will investigate how this got past our inspectors."
Against electrical regulations
LM also violated electrical regulations.
Ernesto Cayugan of the city's Electrical Department said LM was given a Notice of Condemned Installation last March enumerating all their electrical violations.
One of these violations is hanging electrical cables on tanks containing combustible oil. People living inside the facility also engage in potentially hazardous activities like cooking meals within 100 meters of the tanks.
Such activities can cause explosions and massive fires when sparks come into contact with the thousands of liters of oil inside each tank.
After receiving the notice, LM acquired an Electrical Wiring Permit signed by electrical engineers and licensed electricians. it was this permit that prevented city inspectors from inspecting the facility, said Cayugan. But based on inspections made that day, they still did not comply with regulations.
Cayugan said he will bring the case to the city's legal department so LM can explain their non-compliance despite the notice of violations.
Business permit presented
Ferdinand Lopez, lawyer of LM owner Ma. Theresa Ramos Enrquez, presented the Business Permit allegedly issued by the city of Manila on January 18, 2013. In it, Enriquez declared that the business sold retail and wholesale bunker oil.
Lopez also showed an Official Receipt from the Manila City Treasurer showing that LM business permit fees amounting to P57,087.50. This includes sanitary inspection and electrical inspection fees.
A stamp on the OR also declared that LM submitted a zoning application.
Lopez told Rappler that Enriquez – who is in California, US for vacation – will return to the Philippines within the week.
Manila City Administrator Jesus Marzan said that as of 10am on June 25, 600 liters of oil were collected from the river. Cleaning operations by the Philippine Coast Guard should be finished by Thursday, June 27.
Residents from Barangay 100 who smelled oil from the river on June 24, a day after the spill, said they no longer smell it. - Rappler.com