Are mini gas stations safe?

Motorists who frequent the boondocks and distant coastal areas have been seeing more and more mini gas stations — mostly stand-alone gas pumps, or fuel vending machines, by the side of the road.

For those running on empty, these one-pump stations seem better than having to fill up by the coke bottle at so-called “bote-bote” stalls that are also common in out-of-the-way barangays and barrios in the provinces.

Lately some mini gas stations are being seen even in more urban settings. And after reports of recent fires involving such stations, concerns over their safety and even legality cropped up.

The Society of Motoring Journalists of the Philippines (SPMJ) has made this concern the topic of its 5th SPMJ Forum, inviting Oil Industry Management Bureau Assistant Director Rodela Romero and Retail Marketing Monitoring and Special Concerns Division Chief Loralai Capistrano of the Department of Energy (DOE) and Raffy Capinpin, executive director of the Philippine Institute of Petroleum (PIP) as resource persons.

The PIP is a non-profit organization established in 1996 essentially to act as a voice of its members following the implementation of the Oil Industry Deregulation Law or Republic Act 8479.

The PIP currently has six members—Shell, Chevron, Isla LPG, Petron, PTT, and Total.

During the discussion at the SPMJ forum, it was learned that the establishment of mini gas stations are the result of DOE efforts to address the proliferation of bote-bote stalls which are by nature illegal and unsafe.

The solution was to legitimize operations of small retail outlets with Fuel Vending Machines.

The DOE issued guidelines to regulate what it calls Technology Solution Retail Outlets or TSROs.

These guidelines are laid out under Rule IV of DOE Department Circular 2017-11 or the Revise Retail Rules.

The DOE said the following should be observed by those who wish to set up TSROs:

—Shall address the fuel requirements of those catered by the bote-bote retailing in the area supplied for, as certified by the concerned LGU;

—A distance of 1-kilometer radius from another retail outlet shall be observed; 

—No other commercial establishments shall be installed/constructed within the Retail Outlet other than those necessary for its operations; 

—The vehicle being serviced and the delivery of the liquid fuels by the tank truck shall at all times be inside the business premises;

—One (1) meter setback distance shall be maintained in the following: Cashier’s booth or dispensing pump to firewalls; 

—During the supply operation of tank truck, there should be one (1) meter working distance that should be maintained from the tank truck firewalls.

Moreover under DOE guidelines for TSROs, they are allowed to store fuel above ground up to a maximum of 2,000 liters per product (gasoline or diesel).

In their briefing, the DOE revealed that there are now over 200 TSROs in operation mostly in coastal areas of Oriental Mindoro, Siargao, and in the Panay Region.

Also during the SPMJ forum, the PIP expressed its support to counter the “bote-bote” selling through TSROs which it noted provide business opportunities to small and medium-sized entrepreneurs.

However, it expressed the need to strictly supervise and monitor TSRO establishment and operations to ensure compliance with DOE retailing rules as well those of concerned government agencies like the Bureau of Fire Protection and the Bureau of Internal Revenue.

PIP specifically asked the DOE to reconsider guidelines concerning above-ground storage for fuel of 2,000 liters, the use of reconditioned drums for storage.

PIP especially expressed concern for the safety of communities where TSROs are located, after also noting recent fires and pointing that many photos posted on social media reveal that many TSROs violate conditions set by the DOE.

There really should be more discussions on TSROs as these seemingly sunshine trade is growing and reaching into urban centers and areas where bote-bote stalls are not found.

Almera steps up

Nissan Philippines, Inc. (NPI) has just rocked the local passenger sedan segment with the launch of all-new Almera that offers what is says are  first-in-class features.

Making quite a splash in its segment and class, the all-new Almera now sports a 1.0L turbo engine, Nissan Intelligent Mobility features, and bolder new design elements.

“The all-new Almera is the smart and stylish sedan that first time owners, growing families, and young professionals can trust,” says Atsushi Najima, president and managing director of Nissan in the Philippines.

“As part of Nissan’s transformation plan in the Philippines, we are offering a unique and exciting challenger in the competitive passenger car segment,” he adds.

Turbocharged ZS

Also rocking the local automotive scene is the MG Philippines with the launch of the MG ZST, the turbocharged version of the popular MG ZS SUV crossover.

MG Philippines claims the MG ZS already sits atop the local top of the 5-seater SUV-B segment and the turbocharged version should solidify its standing there.

“With the new ZST by MG, what customers get is an upgrade of all the best features of the original ZS, headlined by a responsive turbocharged engine that provides power on tap when you need that extra boost on the road,” says Atty. Alberto B. Arcilla, MG Philippines president and CEO.

“When we launched the MG brand in 2018, our goal was clear: to be part of the exciting and growing Philippine automotive market, and to provide Filipinos with stylish, modern, and safe vehicles—but at very attainable price points,”  he adds.

Arcilla noted that the local market’s reception has been very encouraging indeed and in just three more Filipinos have chosen MG, with over ten thousand MGs, including a lot of the ever-popular ZS Crossover SUV on local roads.

NLEX goes solar

NLEX Corporation should be commended for initiatives to lower the carbon footprint of its operation by installing photovoltaic power systems in select toll plazas.

NLEX says it first harnessed solar power at its Meycauayan southbound toll plaza in 2018 followed by the toll plazas in Balintawak, Bocaue, Mexico, Angeles, San Fernando southbound, and Harbor Link (Karuhatan) in 2019.

According to latest data, the NLEX said the total energy harvested for 2020 was 171 MWh which gained carbon emission savings of 134,232 kilograms or equivalent to 4,006 trees planted. 

The Bocaue Barrier generated the highest CO2 emission savings with 50,618 kgs or equivalent to 1,511 trees planted with the Balintawak Toll Plaza coming in second, yielding CO2 emission savings of 42,980 kgs or corresponding to 1,283 trees planted.

NLEX said it plans to install solar power panels in more NLEX and SCTEX toll plazas in the coming years.

Happy Motoring!!! 

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