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On Petron’s foot-in-mouth disease

September 1, 2006

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Asking for a boycott

OBVIOUSLY Petron Corp., the owner of the two million liters of bunker fuel carried by the ill-fated Solar I, was not prepared for an accident the size of which President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has declared a national disaster.

Even its spokesman the affable Virginia Ruivivar, is saying the wrong things, agitating the public rather than calming it down. Her statements have added fuel to the growing clamor for a boycott of Petron products.

The Petron spokesman and perhaps the whole management team of Petron could use of a crisis media management workshop, something they should have taken a long time ago, so they can have a better grip of the media situation, at least.

I attended a few such workshops as a resource media person and the best one I participated in was given by Ping Sotto, who has handled them not only here in the Philippines but also all over Asia. Petron should not mind if Sotto used to work for Pilipinas Shell. In fact, his petroleum industry experience should be helpful.

The most disquieting statement coming from Ruivivar and which she has repeated over and over again is her insistence that Petron has neither a legal nor a contractual liability for the damage caused by the bunker fuel spill caused by the Solar I.

Obviously Ruivivar is just following instructions from Petron management when she mouths that line. Petron management must have also been advised by their lawyers who also obviously do not understand media and should also be included in the list of those who should take the workshop.

The lawyers apparently do not want Petron to open itself to the expected deluge of lawsuits that will be filed against it because of the incident. In fact, some resort owners in Guimaras have already announced their intention to file multimillion peso damage suits against Petron.

(Click Alvin Capino for the rest of the column, Sept. 1, 2006.)

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