Another demolition job
(The Philippine Star) - July 15, 2012 - 12:00am

So much has been written about the success of port operator Harbour Centre Port Terminal Inc. (HCPTI), and how the young Mikee Romero was able to convert a moribund property into a world-class facility.

Aside from Harbour Centre, Mikee also partly owns Manila North Harbour Port Terminal (MNHPI), the operator of the North Harbor. The Romeros are embarking on a huge project that will transform North Harbor into a modern and premiere port.

Those businessmen who turned down the property must be banging their heads against the wall for not taking the opportunity when it presented itself.

But due to crab mentality, these businessmen have embarked on a media blitz to discredit the Romeros anew. For the past several weeks, news of supposed violations of HCPTI of environmental laws hugged the headlines of several broadsheets for their alleged stockpiling of coal.

The stories came out, complete with pictures of coal stockpiled near the bayside of Manila Bay, accusing the Romeros of “stockpiling” coal purportedly as part of HCPTI’s operation. The stories, attributed to party-list Rep. Angelo Palmones accused Romero of illegally stockpiling coal in HCPTI which causes pollution. Palmones also accused HCPTI of not having any permit to stockpile coal.

Is the story of stockpiling true? Does HCPTI own the coal allegedly stockpiled on its yard as what the newspaper articles said?

HCPTI has already answered all the allegations but the attack against the company goes on with some stories a complete falsity including one inm which Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Salvador Paje reportedly issued a cease and desist order. The DENR chief denied issuing such statement.

What also caught the attention of not a few observers to the misguided news report was the publication of a picture with a stockpile of coal and making it appear as part of HCPTI. They said pictures paint a thousand words but that turned out to be different in the case of a picture of a coal yard which is clearly not in HCPTI but on Pier 18. Interestingly, the same pictures had already been submitted and used during an investigation by the Manila City government which cleared HCPTI of any wrongdoing two years ago.

HCPTI executives have every reason to feel slighted by reports that accused the company of being a violator of the country’s environmental laws by transforming Vitas, Tondo into a dumping ground for coal.

They insist that the coal must belong to another firm since records show that a privately-owned and managed port is not allowed to handle more than 40,000 metric tons of coal at any time.

Moreover, the contracts between HCPTI and the coal consignees, which include power-generating plants, cement companies and iron and steel manufacturers, explicitly state that coal should be out of the port within five days, lest they suffer penalties.

“The purported mountain of coal in Vitas, Tondo does not belong to us. Simply put, we do not import coal. Only our clients do and we have made it clear that only 40,000 MT of unused coal could be stored and only for 120 hours,” the company stressed.

The executives stressed that since HCPTI can handle cargoes faster than others, the consignees are assured of quicker disposal of their cargoes at reduced costs.

HCPTI’s handling of coal cargoes has been exemplary, the executives stressed, and this is the reason why it has been recommended for ISO 14001 certification on account of good environmental management.

 “The HCPT located at the Manila Harbour Centre, is Manila’s only privately-owned international port with world-class and environment-friendly facilities, also denies ever owning or running a site in Vitas area, where the coal stockpile has been reported to mount. While pictures that were circulated recently tell a thousand stories, this is not the case at HCPTI to which a coal stockpile area in Vitas, Tondo has been attributed and made to appear as its own.That area and its stockpile of coal are neither part of the HCPT nor owned and being operated by the HCPT. The facility is situated inside an exclusive industrial complex and almost five kilometers from the nearest residential area. The impact of its coal handling and storage operations on the residents of Vitas, if any, is absolutely nil,” they explained.

The company is the owner and operator of an international port and is strictly limited to only the discharge of this commodity and other bulk cargoes from vessels and their storage for delivery to trucks that would haul them to the consignees.

In proving that the company is not committing any breach of environmental laws, HCPTI said it has permits from the Philippine Ports Authority (COR-PTO No. 389) to handle international bulk and breakbulk cargo.

HCPTI also possesses clearances and permits from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (ECC-NCR-0002-0029-215 and PTO No. 12-POA-A-133901-057) to store bulk cargoes that include coal and operate a 40,000-MT coal storage facility and handling facility.

Manila City Hall also issued Sanitary Permit No. 009-HD-I-2012-1584 to the company to attest to its compliance with standards for cleanliness and hygiene.

In compliance with its environment clearance certificate (ECC), a Multi-Partite Monitoring Team (MMT) comprised of locators, representatives from the various barangays, the Manila city government and the DENR -- regularly convenes and conducts inspections on port operations to check and ensure compliance with environmental laws and policies.

Apart from MMT inspections, City Hall and DENR separately conduct surprise visits at HCPTI. These inspections showed that the company was not in breach of environmental laws and city ordinances.

Regular air and water analyses are also conducted within HCPTI to determine if it follows laws governing pollution. The latest tests were conducted on June 8, with the results showing the company’s compliance with national and international standards.

HCPTI said the DENR should investigate the charges raised by some parties, adding that it is more than willing to show its records if only to belie that preposterous charges raised by detractors and some organizations that did not take their time in checking whether their allegations have any legal leg to stand on.

While suspecting that some quarters are out to malign HCPTI and Manila Harbour Centre (MHC) for their selfish interest, the company executives stressed both the DENR and the Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA) should refrain from barking orders without the benefit of any preliminary inquiry.

“DENR and LLDA should first investigate before playing to the gallery since HCPT’s reputation and business standing is at stake here. Without any investigation, no one has the right to speak,” HCPTI added.

The company stressed that it supports the environmental protection campaigns of both DENR and LLDA and thus, it is committed to keeping its own house clean.

HCPTI said it is also undertaking an investigation into the matter and would join both the DENR and LLDA in prosecuting violators of environmental laws and those who compromise press freedom, by promoting a lie as the truth.

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