Cheaper Fuel Promised

With the approval of the reclassification ordinance by the Sangguniang Bayan in an emotionally-charged session last week, the idled Petron fuel station could be open to motorists in two weeks, municipal officials say.

Businessman Carlito Tariman told the Tribune that he will secure the requirements for the establishment’s Mayor’s Permit to Operate as soon as Mayor Santos Zafe approves the ordinance, which was set to be signed by the councilors last Monday.

A municipal official said that there is no impediment for the grant of a mayor’s permit to the Petron station as long as it complies with the requirements and the ordinance has been signed into law by the mayor, even if the same has yet to be reviewed by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan. An ordinance filed for review by the SP can lapse into law if not acted upon by the board after 30 calendar days.

There are unconfirmed reports that certain provincial board members allied with Governor Joseph C. Cua, whose JC Cua Group of Companies owns the existing gas stations and fuel depot on the island, have been instructed to delay the review of the ordinance. However, one PBM said this is not possible since the Committee on Justice is chaired by PBM Shirley Araojo-Abundo, who is identified with former Gov. Leandro Verceles, Jr.

Any delay in the opening of the Petron station, observers say, would raise anew the tempers of the transport sector especially tricycle drivers who joined the Jan. 19 rally to pressure the Virac councilors to approve the Tariman reclassification measure.

The transport sector has been simmering over the alleged wide disparity between fuel prices on the island and those in the Bicol mainland. The Petron representative reportedly said that the Virac station’s products would most likely be two or three pesos higher than Manila prices.

The controversial reclassification ordinance, filed by Tariman in the wake of his failure to convince the Court of Appeals to overturn the Regional Trial Court’s ruling that junked the zoning amendment covering the Petron lot, was finally approved by the municipal council in a tense session presided over by Vice Mayor Roy Laynes last week.

Gas, Virac, CatanduanesFour SB members identified with the Cua-Santiago alliance – Oliver Custodio, Delia Bagadiong, Eulogio Talaran Jr. and Marcelino Sorra – joined the opposition group of Alipio Abundo, his daughter SK chair Alinor Abundo, Rosie Olarte and Giovanni Balmadrid for the eight votes needed to pass it into law. As expected, Councilor Lemuel Surtida stood his ground in opposing the ordinance while Councilor Rafael Zuniega played it safe in abstaining from the nominal voting.

After trying to pass off being first in line to explain his vote, Liga ng mga Barangay municipal president Custodio described his decision as "the toughest thing to do" as it could mean antagonizing his boss, threaten his position or lose some of his friends and colleagues.

Councilor Bagadiong, on the other hand, said her unqualified stand reflects her independence and deep thinking as gleaned from prevailing conditions, sentiments and needs, especially the local transport sector, the end-users and the community at large. "They are our real masters," she said, stressing that it is time to break the cloud of hypocrisy and partisanship.

Revealing that he surrendered his cellphone due to the huge volume of text messages he received regarding the issue, Councilor Talaran said the approval of the measure will propel better service to the people of Virac.

In favoring the measure, Councilor Sorra simply stated that the applicant had complied with all the requirements and the application had undergone several discussions and study by the concerned committee.

Confident that the measure was sure of approval when his turn came, Councilor Zuniega said he is not against the operation of Petron but cited minor lapses in the reclassification process. He particularly cited the alleged failure of the applicant to secure the endorsement of the new barangay council of Francia, although the latter manifested its support for the Petron station during the public hearing.

In voting no, Councilor Surtida pointed to what he said were procedural lapses: the use of the 2006 barangay resolution for the 2008 application; the HLURB locational clearance which was based on the nullified zoning amendment ordinance; absence of the owner of the adjoining lot during the public hearing; and, the late submission of the draft ordinance. "Kung maboto ako uya, maluwas na patal ako, daing pagkasabot sa sakong trabaho," he said, promising that he would not file a case to nullfy the ordinance.

Councilor Alinor Abundo simple voted "yes" but his father, who was the measure’s proponent, revealed that his wife, a nurse at the provincial hospital, received a text message warning that she could be assigned anywhere.

Councilor Olarte said she simply wants the equitable enforcement or application of laws, rules and regulations and saw no reason to disapprove the ordinance. The last vote was cast by Councilor Balmadrid, who thanked the Committee on Zoning, Planning and Land Use headed by Councilor Surtida for recommending the measure for second reading, meaning the committee had already dissected its requirements.

Catanduanes Tribune - 09 January 2009