Living dangerously: fire hazards in the neighborhood
Residents of TS Cruz Subdivision in Las Piñas City have long been bothered by the sight of drums of various chemicals being unloaded regularly to a warehouse right inside the village. These fears were intensified by the scent of strong fumes being emitted by the warehouse.
Then it happened.
Around 10 am on January 25, a loud explosion rocked the neighborhood, followed by a fire at the warehouse of Rich Chem Enterprises that sent panicked residents into the streets.
Firefighters took five hours to put out the blaze that left dark, acrid-smelling smoke--from a mixture of burnt paint thinner, muriatic acid and other highly flammable substances stored at the gutted warehouse.
"Dapat talaga matanggal na ang warehouse na 'yan," says Aireen Sabandal, whose house shares a wall with the warehouse.
Alarming as it had been, the incident may not be the last--in that same neighborhood, or in other neighborhoods in Metro Manila.
In a study using the Geographic Information System, GMA News Research finds eight out of ten industrial establishments in Metro Manila located dangerously close to residential areas.
The model zoning ordinance of the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board requires a 500-meter distance between residential areas and hazardous industrial establishments.
The HLURB also noted that elementary and secondary schools should be located 200 meters away from adult
Given this, the gutted warehouse of Rich Chem posed a danger to at least two subdivisions in Las Pinas City.
HLURB warns that industrial establishments such as factories, warehouses, storage facilities, laboratories and textile mills discharge large amounts of air, water and solid pollutants. Most of these are considered hazardous owing to the large amounts of combustible and toxic materials they store.
The distance required in the model zoning ordinance must be able to cushion the hazardous effects of industrial establishments - like factories, warehouses, storage facilities, laboratories, textile mills, - to adjacent areas.
But, just as the Rich Chem incident showed, homes and schools now sit side by side with industrial establishments.
GMA News Research laid out on a map the industrial establishments in Metro Manila.
|INDUSTRIAL ESTABLISMENTS IN METRO MANILA|
Sources: HLURB, Geodata
Of the 676 industrial establishments in Metro Manila, 566 or 83.73 percent lie within the 500-meter buffer zone for subdivisions or residential areas.
Some 192 industrial establishments or 28.40 percent are within the 200-meter buffer zone for schools.
"Public safety is on top of the hierarchy of priorities in zoning. Ang unang-unang proprotektahan mo talaga yung mga tao," says Nora Diaz, chief of the Field Operations Group of the HLURB.
The Bureau of Fire Protection considers industrial establishments as fire hazards because they store flammable materials and highly combustible substances. "Electricity-powered machines and equipment can trigger sparks or short circuits in factories and warehouses," said Fire Insp. Domingo Tambalo of BFP-National Capital Region.
In four months, from October last year to February this year, BFP-NCR has recorded eight destructive fires in industrial establishments in Metro Manila.
|INDUSTRIAL FIRE INCIDENTS IN METRO MANILA (October 2005 - February 2006)|
|Industrial Compound, Brgy. Kaybiga, Caloocan City||1120 H, February 13, 2006||1 injured, 3,000.00|
|Rich Chem Enterprises, Gladiola St., T S Cruz Subd, Las Piñas||1000H January 25, 2006||10,000,000|
|Georgian Lane, Marcos Ave, Piñas||0303H, December 26, 2005||5,000,000|
|Calypso Plastic Center , Mapulang Lupa Valenzuela||0635H, December 24, 2005||4 injured|
|Asian Pacific Factory, Sto. Rosario, Ugong, Valenzuela||0218H, December 1, 2005||16,700,00.00|
|Dagat-dagatan, Caloocan City||1404, October 28, 2005||5,000,000|
|MGM Industrial Compound Bagbaguin, Valenzuela||1836H, October 15, 2005 1836H||100,000|
|No. 15. G. Molina St., Canumay East, Valenzuela||0400H, October 4, 2005||1,000,000|
Pasig City has the most number of industrial establishments because of its proximity to the Pasig River, a major mode of transport of raw materials and products.
Sources: HLURB, Geodata
In the entire Metro Manila, more than half of the 566 identified industrial establishments encroaching the protective zone for residential areas are in Pasig City. (Table)
And almost 60 percent of the industrial establishments lying within the 200meter buffer zone from schools are also in Pasig City.
|CITY/MUNICALITY||Number of Industrial Establishments within 500m from Residential Areas|
|City of Manila||3|
Pasig City Mayor Vicente Eusebio said he has stopped the establishment of new factories or warehouses in his area. Under the Local Government Code, local governments grant business and building permits.
The Pasig City government is also carrying out the gradual phaseout of the existing factories, says Eusebio. He notes, however, that much of the problem lies with the fact that most factories along Pasig River were built even before the subdivisions were established.
"Hindi natin maalis lalo na kung nauna ang factory doon... Naglalagay na lang kami ng mga requirement o regulasyon," Eusebio says.
The local governments, thus, must impose stricter rules for that factory or warehouse, Diaz says. "Papayagan mo pa rin pero this time, mag-i-impose na ng kondisyon ang local government unit. Pwede niyang gawing kondisyon na dapat walang hazardous effect sa community."
Otherwise, zoning regulations--with their noble purpose of promoting the health, safety and general welfare of the people--would go the way of useless legislation. (with Brenda Barrientos)