In November, the Supreme Court of the Philippines took decisive action to end a 14-year dispute over the existence of Pandacan Oil Depot. Less than four months later, the depots fate is once again in doubt.
Oil companies have failed to meet a mid-January deadline to submit plans explaining how they would vacate Pandacan by July. Moreover, one of companies, Shell, has filed a challenge to the Courts ruling, raising prospects that the fight may drag on.
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The Pandacan depot has housed operations of the Philippines largest oil company, Petron, plus Shell and Chevron. Residential and commercial development has grown up around the 33-acre compound. Residents and community leaders have for years called for its closure, saying it constitutes a security risk. Manilas government has at different times sided with the companies and opponents.
Late last year the Supreme Court ruled on a case disputing a city law that would have required the depot to be closed by January 2016. The court decided in favor of closing the facility, and actually moved up the deadline to July. It also ruled that the companies needed to submit plans for closing their facilities by mid-January.
As of the middle of last month, the Manila government said it had not received plans. Last month Shell filed a motion for reconsideration, seeking permission to present experts who would testify that the depot is safe and does not present a security risk.
Shell disputed the notion that it is defying the will of local residents or democratic institutions.
Shell continues to uphold the rule of law, and this is precisely why we are exhausting all the available remedies granted to us under our judicial system, a Shell spokesman, who asked not to be identified, told Lube Report Asia last week. Our depots are safe as attested by a number of studies conducted by independent international experts and organizations. Our request is for the Supreme Court to give us the opportunity to present evidence to aid them further in their deliberations.
Petron announced in mid-2014 that it would vacate Pandacan by the end of 2015, but it did not respond to requests for comment last week. Chevron said it actually ceased using the depot in June and has shifted its operations to facilities elsewhere in the Philippines.
Shell maintains that it will defer to the Supreme Courts will if the company does not succeed in its motion to reconsider.
Should the court affirm its original decision, we will comply and cease operating in Pandacan, the spokesman said.