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The Holcim reports…and other Petron PR machinations

September 4, 2006

HOW interesting that Holcim Philippines Inc., a unit of the Switzerland-based Holcim Cement, has come out with a PR offensive to publicize its investment and other business activities this year. A barrage of stories are out today in your favorite newspapers.

The news comes on the heels of the recent report that the firm will be getting free fuel to power its cement plants in Mindanao courtesy of, well whaddya know? the sludge from the Guimaras oil spill. A tanker with barrels full of the Petron muck is right this minute, being loaded up and is getting ready to sail to Misamis Oriental. As most of you know by now, Holcim Phils. was formerly Alsons Cement Corp.–a company owned by the powerful and influential Alcantara family of Mindanao to which Petron chairman Nick Alcantara belongs. (See my Aug. 31 blog.)

Uh-oh. The Coast Guard better inspect this tanker as well and see whether it is single or double-hulled. It is again charted by Petron so I have my doubts about the safety of this vessel as well.

Going back to Holcim, the company has certainly learned its lesson from the PR faux pas of Petron and is coming out swinging in an effort to portray itself as well, not a preying monster. So what if it’s getting free fuel courtesy of Petron’s neglect and stupidity right? (In all my years as a business journalist, I can’t quite remember the last time Holcim actually had a press conference.)

Speaking of PR faux pas, I hear from our friends down south that Petron’s PR consultant has been handing out P500 to Visayas reporters to make them tone down their stories and make them more favorable toward the oil company. The envelopes of P500–ang cheap naman!–are even hand-carried by local tricycle drivers. Wow, special delivery!

What’s more, the wily company has bought advertising spots on TV, radio and local papers to encourage the management of these media outfits to be kinder to Petron. The PR gal has supposedly been boasting as well about having convinced the desk editors of the major broadsheets in Manila to ease up on the anti-Petron content of their news. Is it working? Well hon, read the papers and tell me what you think.

So much wasteful spending if you ask me. All that money could be put to better use…like buying food and water for the displaced fisherfolk of Guimaras, which is really a much better PR campaign to win the peoples’ hearts and minds. Honestly, what century are Petron officials living in? Aba, style nyo bulok!

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