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Reopening of pipeline in

West Tower leak seen after

SC ruling


by Joel R. San Juan - June 18, 2015

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THE White Oil Pipeline (WOPL) being operated by the Lopezowned First Philippine Industrial Corp. (FPIC), which leaked in
2010, may soon get Supreme Court (SC) approval for its
That is, if tests would show the pipeline is already safe for
commercial purpose.
In a resolution issued on June 16, the Court en banc adopted
the 2012 report and recommendations issued by the Court of
Appeals (CA). It was at the CA where the petition for the writ of
kalikasan was filed by West Tower Condominium operators, unit
owners and nearby residents in Barangay Bangkal, Makati City,
who were forced to vacate their residences due to health and
safety concerns purportedly after the WOPL leaked.
The Court enumerated several tests to be undertaken by the
FPIC with the supervision of the Department of Energy (DOE)
before it can be reopened.
After the FPIC has undertaken the activities prescribed, the
DOE shall determine if the activities and the results of the test
run warrant the reopening of the WOPL, the SC ruled. In the

event that the DOE is satisfied that the WOPL is safe for
continued commercial operations, it shall issue an order
allowing FPIC to resume the operations of the pipeline.
The Court also directed the FPIC to undertake and continue
remediation, rehabilitation and restoration of the affected
Barangay Bangkal environment until it is restored to its
condition prior to the leakage.
The Court also ordered the FPIC to conduct the following:

Perform cleaning pig run and witness the launching and

receiving of the intelligent and cleaning pigs.
Demonstrate and observe the various pressure and
leakage tests, including blocked-in pressure test or the
pressure test conducted while all the WOPLs openings are
blocked off or closed off; and in-operation test of the hourly
monitoring of pressure rating after the pipeline is filled with
dyed water and pressurized at a specified rate.

Continue, inspect and oversee the current gas monitoring

system, or the monitoring of gas flow from the boreholes and
monitoring wells of the WOPL.

Check the mass or volume balance computation during the

test run.

The High Tribunal also ordered the DOE to ensure that FPIC
complies with measures once the WOPL is re-opened to prevent
similar incident in the future.
These include the continued implementation of the companys
Pipeline Integrity Management System (Pims) as reviewed by
the DOE. These steps include:

The conduct of daily patrols on the entire stretch of the

WOPL every two hours;

Continued close monitoring of all the boreholes and

monitoring wells of the WOPL, pipeline;

Regular periodic testing and maintenance based on its

PIMS; and

The auditing of the pipelines mass input versus mass


The SC also ordered the FPIC to submit to the DOE a report on

its compliance with its directives and any other conditions to be
imposed by the DOE. The FPIC must submit the report within 10
days of each succeeding month.
It was the DOE that asked the CA in 2013 to allow the
reopening of the 117-kilometer Batangas to Manila WOPL after
its leak test conducted in December indicated no more leaks in
the pipeline.
The DOE recommended to allow the FPIC to start its operation
anew pending the resolution of the petition for a writ of
kalikasan with a motion for the issuance of a Permanent
Environment Protection Order filed by West Tower residents.
The government agency said the 43-year-old pipeline is still the
safest and most efficient mode of transporting petroleum
products despite the leakage. The DOE said the pipeline poses
lower risks to life and limb.
It added that the pipeline has a higher level of reliability than
transporting the fuel products through lorry trucks as it is not
affected by weather, traffic and truck ban in Metro Manila and
provides for complete and timely.
Meanwhile, the Court begged off from ruling on the finding of
the CA that the individual directors and officers of FPIC and First

Gen Corp. are not liable in their individual capacities for the
The SC noted it is clear in the Rules of Procedure for
Environmental cases that in a petition for a writ of kalikasan,
the Court cannot grant the award of damages to individual
As duly noted by the CA, the civil case and criminal complaint
filed by petitioners against respondents are the proper
proceedings to ventilate and determine the individual, liability
of respondents, if any, on their exercise of corporate powers
and the management of FPIC relative to the dire environmental
impact of the dumping of petroleum products stemming from
the leak in the WOPL, the SC said.
In a statement, the FPIC welcomed the Courts ruling and said it
is ready to abide by its conditions for the reopening of the
WOPL, including the continued conduct of remediation
measures in Barangay Bangkal.
FPIC has been working closely with government agencies and
has always complied with government regulations concerning
our efforts to restore the environmental health of the areas
affected by the pipeline leak, to ensure the pipelines integrity
and the return to regular operations of an infrastructure that is
vital to the Philippine economy and the lives of thousands of
Metro Manilans, the statement read.
The remediation of the affected areas in Bangkal has been
continuous to this day. We are doing everything necessary and
sparing no expense to protect the health and safety of the
public, it added.