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The First Philippine Industrial Corporation (FPIC) maintains a 117 kilometer oil pipeline running from Batangas to the Pandacan Oil Depot in Manila. In May 2010, an oil leak was detected in the basement of the West Tower Condominium which is just near the FPIC oil pipe. Thereafter, the West Tower Condominium Corporation, together with other interested groups such as the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, Kilusang Makabansang Ekonomiya, Inc., Women’s Business Council of the Philippines, Inc., Junior Chambers International Philippines, Inc. – San Juan Chapter, Zonta Club of Makati Ayala Foundations, and the Consolidated Mansions Condominium Corporation, and in representation of others, including minors and generations yet unborn, filed a petition for writ of kalikasan and environmental protection order against FPIC. The petition prayed for the following:
(1) For FPIC to permanently cease and desist from committing acts of negligence in the performance of their functions as a common carrier;
(2) continue to check the structural integrity of the whole 117-kilometer pipeline and to replace the same;
(3) make periodic reports on their findings with regard to the 117-kilometer pipeline and their replacement of the same;
(4) rehabilitate and restore the environment, especially Barangay Bangkal and West Tower, at least to what it was before the signs of the leak became manifest; and
(5) to open a special trust fund to answer for similar and future contingencies in the future.
In November 2010, the Supreme Court issued a writ of kalikasan and a temporary environmental protection order (TEPO) against FPIC and the latter was directed to cease from operating the pipeline.
FPIC filed a return arguing that petitioners had no legal capacity to institute the petition; there is no allegation that the environmental damage affected the inhabitants of two (2) or more cities or provinces; and the continued operation of the pipeline should be allowed in the interest of maintaining adequate petroleum supply to the public.
1. Whether or not the other interested groups are parties in interest.
2. Whether or not the the TEPO should be made permanent.
3. Whether or not the opening of a trust fund is proper in this case.
1. Yes. The filing of a petition for the issuance of a writ of kalikasan under Sec. 1, Rule 7 of the Rules of Procedure for Environmental Cases does not require that a petitioner be directly affected by an environmental disaster. The rule clearly allows juridical persons to file the petition on behalf of persons whose constitutional right to a balanced and healthful ecology is violated, or threatened with violation.
2. It depends. FPIC must comply with the strict oversight of the Department of Energy. FPIC was allowed to temporarily open the pipelines for purposes of testing. The test run will be strictly monitored. After FPIC has undertaken the activities prescribed, the DOE shall determine if the activities and the results of the test run warrant the re-opening of the pipeline. In the event that the DOE is satisfied that the pipeline is safe for continued commercial operations, it shall issue an order allowing FPIC to resume the operations of the pipeline. Once the WOPL is re-opened, the DOE shall see to it that FPIC strictly complies with the fixed guidelines. FPIC is also DIRECTED to undertake and continue the remediation, rehabilitation and restoration of the affected Barangay Bangkal environment until full restoration of the affected area to its condition prior to the leakage is achieved.
3. No. Sec. 1, Rule 5 of the Rules of Procedure for Environmental Cases, a trust fund is limited solely for the purpose of rehabilitating or restoring the environment. The trust fund being sought by petitioners is actually a prayer for damages which is not allowed by the Rules. Sec. 15( e ), Rule 7 of the Rules of Procedure for Environmental Cases expressly prohibits the grant of damages to petitioners in a petition for the issuance of a writ of kalikasan.