Not all is well with Shell’s Philippine centennial (Part 2)

Apparently, because the Shell gasoline station in question fails to comply with the legal and safety requirements for its operation, the city government of San Juan did not allow it to open for business.  This meant that the gasoline station will have to be mothballed in the meantime.  After all, public safety cannot be subjected to unnecessary and needless risks.

In view of this development, it becomes imperative for local government units in Metropolitan Manila take a second look at the Shell gasoline stations in their territorial jurisdiction and check for any possible violation of safety regulations, as well as the requirements on sufficient ingress and egress for customers.   

A Shell gasoline station along Shaw Boulevard in Pasig City across the rotunda in front of the new Capitol Commons commercial hub has one entrance/exit.  To the left of this Shell station is a Petron gasoline station which is located at a corner lot at Shaw Boulevard and Capitol Drive.  Several years ago, the lots on which the Petron and Shell stations now stand used to be one large corner lot hosting a big Petron gasoline station with a very wide frontage on both Shaw Boulevard and Capitol Drive.  Sometime in the 2000s, the large lot was divided between the two stations.  The common entrance/exit of this Shell station seems narrow compared to other Shell stations.       

Another relatively new Shell gasoline station is found at a corner lot along Katipunan Avenue and the entrance to St. Ignatius Village.  Although the station is constructed on a corner lot, the side along the entrance street to St. Ignatius Village is blocked by a wall.  This leaves the station with only one entrance/exit.

The Shell gasoline station along Ortigas Avenue in Pasig City across the main office of the Manila Electric Company is built on a corner, but it allows vehicular parking near its eastern wall, and the parked vehicles reduce the space of the egress to Ortigas Avenue.  Gasoline station customers must compete for space with customers of a McDonald’s outlet and a convenience store both operating on the premises of the gasoline station.    

There are, of course, Shell gasoline stations which appear to meet safety standards without much difficulty.  The Shell Maya gasoline station along Senator Puyat Avenue (the former Buendia Avenue) near Ayala Avenue is probably one example.  It has been there since the 1970s.  The Shell gasoline station along the South Luzon Expressway near Magallanes Village in Makati City also seems to be compliant.  It has been there since the 1980s.   

The 100 years of Shell in the Philippines is not without its share of nostalgia.  As early as the 1960s, its premium fuel was called “Super Shell” and its television and cinema advertisements (yes, there were cinema advertisements back then) promoted the product with the catch-phrase “Zoom, zoom Super Shell.”  In the early 1970s, Shell appealed to children of motorists with its novelty sticker game-toy called “Shell Action Transfers.”  Celebrated program host Pepe Pimentel used to promote the game-toy on radio and television.  During those years, Shell also gave away plastic saucers which were supposed to be circular versions of the boomerang.  A large one was called a “Shell zoom-a-rang” while a small edition was called a “Shell zoomie.”

Sadly, those promotional materials were discontinued after the world oil crisis of 1974 made pump prices of all fuel and petroleum products skyrocket, thanks to the Gulf War and the economic adventurism embarked upon by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.    

Prior to the proclamation of martial law in September 1972, there were only around a dozen Shell gasoline stations in the Greater Manila Area (the predecessor of present-day Metropolitan Manila).  There was a Shell station at the corner of EDSA and Shaw Boulevard where the present Star Mall now stands (Star Mall used to be a mall called Manuela).  Another Shell station stood at the corner of EDSA and New York Street in Cubao, Quezon City.  Motorists headed to Baguio City back then enjoyed a brief stopover at the Shell Riverview gasoline station in La Union located at the foot of Kennon Road.  Its soda fountain served excellent snacks and provided a vista of the dry river bed nearby.

To repeat, the Shell mother corporation abroad places numerous institutional advertisements on international cable television channels, all of which project its image of world corporate responsibility and international corporate citizenship.  If this is so, and considering the corporate goodwill the company has tried its best to nurture in this country for the past 100 years, how is it that Shell Philippines can allow the gasoline station in San Juan City to even entertain the idea of operating under such circumstances?  Is the mother corporation even aware of this problem in the first place?

From what appears from the available documentation, top officials of Shell in the Philippines, the proprietor of the un-opened Shell gasoline station in San Juan City, and officials of both the city government of San Juan and the barangay where the said gasoline station is located, particularly those who issued the corresponding permits without properly ascertaining the truth of the allegations in the pertinent applications, are bound to be sued before the Office of the Ombudsman.  Even the authority of Shell to operate in the country may be inviting revocation.  That may spell trouble even for those Shell gasoline station operators who comply with safety standards. 

At the end of the day, officials of Shell in the Philippines will have to explain to their head office abroad how and why the Shell gasoline station in question could think of even operating without complying with safety standards and regulations obtaining in this country— on the occasion of the Shell centennial in the Philippines.

It seems that even the passage of a hundred years does not automatically mean that all is well on the part of the celebrant.

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