Church hits Subic LNG work

OLONGAPO CITY—The Roman Catholic Church here is concerned that the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority has allowed ship-to-ship transfers of liquefied natural gas or LNG at the Port of Subic, which it noted can be a risk to the public if not handled with care.

Rev. Fr. Daniel O. Presto, administrator of the Diocese of Zambales, said the Church was completely unaware of the STS operations at Subic, and had they known, “they could have studied the issue well and their community could have acted accordingly.” 

Subic freeport officials, Presto added, “did not involve the Church” in the LNG transfer. 

SBMA Chair Atty. Wilma Eisma previously said the Port of Subic stand to earn tens of millions of pesos from this project from services, including tugboat services, port services and anchorage, chandlers, bunkering and food supplies.

Eisma said the port seeks more STS work in the coming months.

The diocese of Zambales has taken an anti-coal and anti-mining stance, Presto said, and sees the LNG operation as dangerous too. 

“We champion the protection of the environment and actively campaign for public safety,” he said.

STS operations involve big oil tankers carrying LNG, to be conveyed to smaller vessels bound to different ports for distribution to markets in and outside the country. Such operations address the shipping of petroleum and other energy products to ports that cannot accommodate bulk carriers because of depth issues, the Church said.

Last April 27, SBMA conducted an STS transfer of LNG at the freeport between the industrially-busy Hanjin Shipping complex in Subic town and a stretch where hotels, high-end restaurants and bars are lined up on the Olongapo City side, it noted.

The 105,335-ton Malaysian-flagged Seri Bakti of Jovo Group Company Ltd. Guandong (JOVO) of China, anchored in Subic Bay, transferred an initial LNG load to feeder vessel S/S Polar Spirit, a 72,524-ton Bahamas-flagged vessel, the diocese’s sources noted.

The last transfer was done Nov. 19 with the Seri Bakti a lot nearer to the Hanjin shipyard, where welding and other “ignitable activities” are done practically nonstop, it added.

Seri Bakti’s operations in Subic Bay are said to be a minimum of two transfers per month, and will increase to a maximum of six transfers per month toward the end of year, the Church said.

Zambales Gov. Amor Deloso, in a separate interview, said he wished his office were at least advised by the authorities beforehand, if not thoroughly consulted “on operations that are of public concern in the province.”

“My hands are tied on such issues, since the country’s law that governs freeports, Republic Act 7227 that created the SBMA, grants such economic zones’ authorities a free hand to the use of the zones — too free for comfort,” Deloso said.

“Any intervention from me as the governor of the province to this LNG STS transfer, or any concerns at all, will just be dismissed as ‘politicking,’” he added.

The national government, through state-run Philippine National Oil Co., is looking at six proposals for an estimated $2-billion LNG terminal in Batangas that could break ground in 2018, the Department of Energy said previously.

Topics: Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority
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