IN the midst of unresolved issues on the sale of the Malampaya stake, the chairman of Shell companies in the Philippines is stepping down.

“Cesar G. Romero will step down as Executive Director, President and Chief Executive Officer, and Chairperson of the Nomination Committee of the Corporation effective November 30, 2021,” Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corporation (PSPC) said in a disclosure to the stock exchange.

Romero was appointed President and CEO of PSPC and Country Chairman of the Shell companies in the Philippines (SciP) in November 2016 after 13 years of international assignments across London, Singapore, and Beijing.

When sought for clarification, PSPC communications manager Cesar Abaricia said Romero “is the President and CEO of PSPC and Chairman of Shell companies in the Philippines until end of November 2021.”

He will be replaced by Lorelie Q. Osial effective December 1, 2021. Osial is currently the Vice President-Finance Process Expenditure at Shell Shared Services (Asia) B.V.

“Romero will stay on until January 31, 2022 to ensure a smooth and streamlined transition and handover to Osial,” PSPC told the exchange.

Asked why Romero had to quit amid the controversy hounding the sale of Malampaya to the group of Davao-based businessman Dennis Uy, the PSPC official said Romero “opted to leave group service to focus on family matters. He will not join any company within or outside the industry.”

Besides, he added, this development is part of the “normal job rotation for all Shell staff” which happens every four years. Romero, he added, is on his sixth year already as PSPC President and CEO and chairman of SciP. Romero’s predecessor, Ed Chua, was with the group for over 10 years.

PSPC also announced on the same day the appointments of a new executive director and assistant corporate secretary.

Rolando J. Paulino Jr. has left Group service last September 8. Succeeding him as director is  Randolph Del Valle, Vice President-Mobility, effective immediately.

Atty. Mark Hadrian Gamo has succeeded Atty. Rubin G. Cura as the new assistant corporate secretary effective immediately.

The 45-percent stake of Shell Philippines Exploration B.V. (SPEX) in the Malampaya gas field in Palawan was sold to Malampaya Energy XP Pte Ltd., a subsidiary Uy-led Udenna Corp. SPEX is the operator of the Malampaya gas field.

The deal, which has yet to be approved by the Department of Energy (DOE), is being scrutinized by the Senate Energy Committee led by Sherwin Gatchalian.

Gatchalian noted that the financial capacity of Udenna in acquiring SPEX is put into question over recent developments, referring to Udenna’s subsidiary PH Resorts Group Holdings Inc., which suspended its casino project in Clark due to debt and cash problems. “This is a red flag. How can we trust a company mired in debt? First, the acquisition of Udenna Corp. unit of Chevron’s 45-percent stake in Malampaya was largely financed by loans. Now, Udenna wants to have the operating interests by acquiring Shell’s stake,” Gatchalian had said.

When sought for comment on Romero’s exit, Gatchalian said, “Romero is a big loss to Shell. I talked to him about energy and oil and gas. He really knows the industry very well,” he said.

Another subsidiary of Udenna acquired the 45-percent stake of Chevron in Malampaya. The UC Malampaya Philippines-Chevron Malampaya deal was approved by the DOE in April this year. After the deal was finalized, Chevron Malampaya was renamed UC38 LLC.

Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi, Uy, and several others face a criminal complaint over Uy’s acquisition of a Chevron subsidiary. The complainants alleged that Cusi and other energy officials “conspired to give unwarranted benefits and advantage to Uy’s Udenna Corporation and its subsidiary, UC Malampaya” for the buyout.

For its part, Udenna Corp. said no group can repeal the deals it entered into with Shell and Chevron.

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