03/14/2015, 00.00
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Filipino bishops welcome court decision to move oil facilities away from Manila

The Supreme Court ruling closes oil facility. Located in a central part of the capital, the latter was a time bomb, a "disaster waiting to happen," according to the city's auxiliary bishop. The prelate now hopes that in the "interest of public health," it will be dismantled as quickly as possible.

Manila (AsiaNews/CBCP) - The Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has welcomed a Supreme Court ruling to close the oil storage facilities in Pandacan, a district in the Filipino capital of Manila. In previous statements, the bishops had described the facility as a time bomb, a "disaster waiting to happen."

In an interview with Radyo Veritas, a Catholic radio station in Manila, the city's auxiliary bishop, Mgr Broderick S. Pabillo, who is the chairman of the CBCP Permanent Committee on Public Affairs (PCPA), expressed hope that the court's decision would be implemented immediately.

For the prelate, "it is in the interest of public health" that this be done as soon as possible. Once the oil facilities on the 33-hectare area are moved to place where they can do the least damage, the place will "no longer be a threat to the people of Pandacan".

Currently, Royal Dutch Shell, Chevron's Caltex and Petron Philippines operate oil depots in one section of the district, which is a heavily populated part of the capital.

Their presence has had devastating impact on public health. Over the years, several accidents have occurred, including explosions and spills into the nearby Pasig River. The last one, which occurred last year, forced many people to go to hospital for serious breathing problems.

The Catholic Church has been pressuring the authorities for quite some time, the prelate said, trying to get them to move away a facility that is so detrimental to human health and the environment.

For the bishops, it is a time bomb. In case of an earthquake, fire or terrorist attack, heavy casualties can be expected. "Let us not wait for something really bad to happen before we do something," Mgr Pabillo said.

The only option for the oil companies and the municipal administration is to respect the court order, the auxiliary bishop said. For him, "Having an oil depot in central Manila is unacceptable".

Such concerns are no surprise. Church leaders, especially in the Archdiocese of Manila, have closely followed environmental issues.

In fact, last month, Catholic parishes in the capital launched an awareness campaign, promoting e-waste collection and disposal.

In Luzon, Catholic leaders and NGOs joined forces to get land restored after the ground was contaminated from excavations and prospecting.

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