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West Tower Condominium Corporation v. 2.

Prohibit FPIC from opening the pipeline, until checked and


First Philippine Industrial Corporation et al. replaced, and be temporarily restrained fr. Operating the
G.R. No. 194239 pipeline until the final resolution of the case.
June 16, 2015 3. Continue to check the structural integrity of WOPL.
4. Rehabilitate and restore the environment and the affected
Ponente: Velasco Jr., J.: areas
5. Open a special trust fund to answer for similar contigencies in
Nature of the Action: Petition for the issuance of Writ of Kalikasan the future.
6. Make periodic reports on ther findings and replacement the
FACTS: WOPL.
FPIC operates two pipelines: (1) the WOPL - White Oil Pipepline System KEYWORD/S: P2C ROM
which covers a 117- km stretch from Batangas to the Pandacan
Terminal in Manila and (2) the BOPL – Black Oil Pipeline System which Issuance of the Writ of Kalikasan with Temporary Environment
extends 105 km from Batangas to a depot in Sucat, Paranaque. Protection order (TEPO)
The Court issued the Writ of Kalikasan with a TEPO requiring the
A leakage in one of these pipelines was suspected after the residents respondents to file their respective verified returns. The TEPO injoined
of West Tower Condominium started to smell gas within the FPIC and FGC to:
condominium. From the discovery of a fuel leak from the wall of its
Basement 2, the flow became uncontrollable which caused the 1. Cease and Desist from operating the WOPL until further orders.
residents of the Condominium to abandon their respective units on 2. Check the strucural integrity of WOPL and prevent any untoard
July 23,2010 and the condo’s power to shutdown. incident that may result from any leak.
3. Make a report thereon within 60 days from receipt thereof.
FPIC initially disowned any leak from its oil pipeline. However,when
the University of the Philippine – National Institute of Geological Respondent FPIC prays for the dismissal of the petition and the denial
Science (UP- NIGS), which the City of Makati invited to determine the of the privilege of WOK based on the ff. the grounds:
source of the fuel, found a leak in FPIC’s White Oil Pipeline (WOPL)
about 86 meters from West Tower.FPIC, then admitted that indeed the 1. Petitioners had no legal capacity to institute the petition
source of the fuel leak is the WOPL bu placed the blame on the 2. There is no allegation that the environmental damage affected
construction activities on the roads surrounding the West Tower. the inhabitants of 2 or more cities or provinces;
3. Continued operation of the pipeline should be allowed in the
Petition for the Issuance of Writ of Kalikasan interest of in maintaining adequate petroleum supply to the
West Tower Corp. filed a Petition for the Issuance of Writ of Kalikasan, public; and
on behalf of the residents of West Tower, in representation of the 4. That petition contains no allegation that the directors and
surrounding communities of Brgy. Bangkal, Makati City and joined by officers acted in such manner as to allow the piercing the
civil society and several people’s organization, NGOS and public corporate veil.
interest groups.
Respondents FGC contended that they neither own nor operate
They prayed that respondent FPIC and its BOD and officers and First pipelines and has no capability, power or responsibility over the
Gen Corp. (FGC) be directed to: pipelines.
1. Permanently cease and decease from commiting acts of
negligence in the performance of their functions as a common On April 15, 2010, the court conducted ocular inspection and
carrier. discovered 2 additional leaks on FPIC pipeline.
Subject to monitoring or inspection requirements, and imposing
In the meantime, petitioners also filed a civil and criminal case against several conditions that FPIC must comply.
respondents asrising from the same incident or leakage from the WOPL
(RTC – Br. 58 in Makati City). The Court is fully cognizant of the WOPL’s value in commerce and the
Report and Recommendation of Court of Appeals adverse effects of a prolonged closure thereof. Nevertheless, there is a
To expedite the resolution of the controversy, the Court remanded the need to ensure that it is sound for continued operation, since it carries
case to the Court of Appeals (CA). As to the merits of the case, the CA pose a significant hazard to the surrounding population and the
submitted the following recommendations: enivronment.
1. That the people’s org., NGOs, and public interest groups that
indicated their intention to join the petition and submitteed Secretary Carlos Jericho L. Petilla of the DOE submitted a letter
proof of juridical personality be allowed to be formally recommending activities and timetable for the reumption of the WOPL
impleaded as petitioners. operations. Then, the Court required the parties to submit their
2. Ordered FPIC to submit a certification from DOE Secretary that comment on Sec. Petilla’s letter. The following issues arise during the
the WOPL is already safe for commercial operation. preliminary conference:
3. The petitioner’s prayer for the creation of special trust fund was
denied for lack of sufficient basis. ISSUE/S:
4. FGC be not held as solidarily laible under TEPO.and 1. Whether or not the petitioner West Tower Corp. has legal
5. Without prejudice to the outcome of civil and criminal case capacity to represent the other petitioners and whether the
against respondents, the individual directors and officer of other petitioners, apart from the residents of West Tower and
FPIC and FGC be not held liable in their individual capacities. Barangay Bangkal, are real parties-in-interest;
2. Whether or not a Permanent Environmental Protection Order
(PEPO) should be issued to FPIC; and
The Court, then issued a Resolution adopting the recommendation of 3. Whether or not a a special trust fund should be opened by
the CA and ordered FPIC to secure certification from the DOE Secretary respondents to answer fro future similar contingencies;and
before WOPL resume its operation. 4. Whether or not the Directors and Officers of FPIC and FGC may
be held liable under the environmental protection order.
The petitioners, in a Motion for Reconsideration with a Motion for
Clarification emphasized that CA found FPIC’s tst to be insufficient RULING:
and inconclusive to establish the structural integrity of WOPL for The Supreme Court adopted the recommendations of the CA with
continued operation. Furthermore, petitioners point out that DOE is modifications as discussed below:
biased and incapable of determining the WOPL’s integrity.
1.YES
Respondents FPIC for their part, maitain that DOE has the techincal Petitioners as Real Parties-in- Interest
competence and expertise and further alleged that DOE is the agency As defined, a real party-in-interest is the party who stands to be
empowered to regulate the transportation and distribution of benefited or injured by the judgment in the suit, or the party entitled
petroleum products, and to regulate and monitor downstream oil to the avails of the suit. Generally, every action must be prosecuted or
industry activities, including distribution “product distribution” defended in the name of the real parties-in-interest. In other words,
through piprline. the action must be brought by the person who, by substantive law,
possesses the right sought to be enforced. Alternatively, one who has
In compliance with the Court’s resolution, the DOE Secretary issued no right or interest to protect cannot invoke the jurisdiction of the court
the certification that WOPL is safe to resume commercial operatios. as party-plaintiff-in-action for it is jurisprudentially ordained that
every action must be prosecuted or defended in the name of the real The precautionary principle only applies when the link between the
party-in-interest. cause, that is the human activity sought to be inhibited, and the effect,
that is the damage to the environment, cannot be established with full
a. Residents of West Tower and Barangay Bangkal scientific certainty. Here, however, such absence of a link is not an
Petitioners who are affected residents of West Tower and Barangay issue. Detecting the existence of a leak or the presence of defects in the
Bangkal have the requisite concern to be real parties-in-interest to WOPL, which is the issue in the case at bar, is different from
determining whether the spillage of hazardous materials into the
pursue the instant petition.
surroundings will cause environmental damage or will harm human
health or that of other organisms. As a matter of fact, the petroleum
leak and the harm that it caused to the environment and to the
In the case at bar, there can be no quibble that the oil leak from the residents of the affected areas is not even questioned by FPIC.
WOPL affected all the condominium unit owners and residents of West
Tower as, in fact, all had to evacuate their units at the wee hours in Lastly, any delay in the reopening of the WOPL, if said delay is for the
the morning of July 23, 2010, when the condominium’s electrical purpose of making sure that the pipeline is commercially viable, is
power was shut down. There can also be no denying that West Tower better than hastily allowing its reopening without an extensive check
Corp. represents the common interest of its unit owners and residents, on its structural integrity when experience shows that there were and
and has the legal standing to file and pursue the instant petition. may still be flaws in the pipeline. Even the DOE, the agency tasked to
oversee the supply and distribution of petroleum in the country, is well
b. Organizations that indicated their intention to join the petition aware of this and even recommended the checking of the patched
and submitted proof of juridical personality portions of the pipeline, among others. In this regard, the Court deems
it best to take the necessary safeguards, which are not similar to
This is so considering that the filing of a petition for the issuance of a applying the precautionary principle as previously explained, in order
writ of kalikasan under Sec. 1, Rule 7 of the Rules of Procedure for to prevent a similar incident from happening in the future.
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 3.NO
right to a balanced and healthful ecology is violated, or threatened with A reading of the petition and the motion for partial reconsideration
violation. readily reveals that the prayer is for the creation of a trust fund for
similar future contingencies. This is clearly outside the limited
2.NO purpose of a special trust fund under the Rules of Procedure for
To recall, petitioners’ persistent plea is for the conversion of the Environmental Cases, which is to rehabilitate or restore the
November 19, 2010 TEPO into a Permanent Environmental Protection environment that has presumably already suffered. Hence, the Court
Order (PEPO) pursuant to Sec. 3, Rule 5 of the Rules of Procedure for affirms with concurrence the observation of the appellate court that
Environmental Cases. For its part, respondent FPIC asserts that the prayer is but a claim for damages, which is prohibited by the Rules
regular testing, as well as the measures that are already in place, will of Procedure for Environmental Cases. As such, the Court is of the
sufficiently address any concern of oil leaks from the WOPL. considered view that the creation of a special trust fund is misplaced.

The CA, however, observed that all of these tests and measures are 4.NO
inconclusive and insufficient for purposes of leak detection and On the last issue of the liability of FPIC, FGC and their respective
pipeline integrity maintenance. Hence, considering the necessary directors and officers, the CA found FGC not liable under the TEPO
caution and level of assurance required to ensure that the WOPL and, without prejudice to the outcome of the civil case (Civil Case No.
system is free from leaks and is safe for commercial operation, the CA
11-256, RTC, Branch 58 in Makati City) and criminal complaint
recommended that FPIC obtain from the DOE a certification that the
(Complaint-Affidavit for Reckless Imprudence, Office of the Provincial
WOPL is already safe for commercial operation.
Prosecutor of Makati City) filed against them, the individual directors
and officers of FPIC and FGC are not liable in their individual
capacities.

The Court will refrain from ruling on the finding of the CA that the
individual directors and officers of FPIC and FGC are not liable due to
the explicit rule 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 petitioners under Rule 7, Sec. 15(e) of the
Rules of Procedure for Environmental Cases. 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 in Barangay Bangkal, Makati City.

Hence, the Court will not rule on the alleged liability on the part of the
FPIC and FGC officials which can, however, be properly resolved in the
civil and criminal cases now pending against them.