Whitewash in Calaca fire feared

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A consumer group expressed apprehension over cover-up in the investigation on the tragedy caused by the fire at a liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) storage facility of South Pacific Inc. (SPI) in Barangay Salong, Calaca in Batangas.

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The National Coalition of Filipino Consumers (NCFC) said SPI should be investigated for operating the LPG terminal inside Phoenix Petrochemicals and Industrial Park without necessary permits from the local government unit as earlier mentioned by Calaca Mayor Boogie Ona.

It said the Department of Energy (DOE), Bureau of Customs (BOC) and the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) should also look into reports that SPI had been importing LPG and operating at full capacity even if its facilities have yet to be completed.

“The circumstances point to a fact that SPI has been operating at full capacity despite its declared status that it is still in the process of commissioning its facility,” said BenCy Ellorin, NCFC safety campaigner.

The NCFC lamented that had authorities listened and acted with due diligence to warnings from their group and other community groups on the reported irregularities in the construction and premature operations of SPI, the people of Barangay Salong and nearby areas could have been spared by the calamity.

The NCFC reminded concerned authorities of published reports in July 2015 asking the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) and the local government unit of Calaca to look into the construction of the LPG terminal with about two million liters capacity.

Community groups identifying themselves as the Samahan ng Takot sa Opresibong Politiko (STOP) and Mamamayang nag Malasakit sa Kalikasan (MMK) alleged in June last year that the construction of the LPG terminal is illegal having no Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC), business and building permits, and Fire Safety Inspection Certificate.

The NCFC had written the Environmental Management Bureau in Calabarzon inquiring about the ECC of South Pacific Terminal last July but was ignored.

Meanwhile, minimal blaze continued to spew out from the LPG tanks on Tuesday, even as Calaca police head, Chief Insp. Telesforo Domingo 3rd told The Manila Times that as of noontime, only one remains to be put out by fire fighters.

An official of Barangay Salong said over a thousand families are spread out in several public elementary schools and chapels, barring orders to return to their homes following Saturday’s fire.

Also, there was still no supply of electricity and water in the entire barangay, he said.

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