Oduber: ‘Timing Valero’s closing down suspect’

ORANJESTAD –– Premier Nelson Oduber finds it strange that Valero had decided to extend the non-active period of the refinery sooner than expected. "They had promised us that they would make a definite decision only at the end of September, after the elections."


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The Premier ‘deeply regrets’ that Valero did not want to wait until after the elections, as agreed upon. "This reminds me of 1985, when Exxon announced that they were going to close the refinery – just before the elections – and sent their delay Coker to Rotterdam based on a gentleman’s agreement with the Dutch government." A number of repairs still have to be carried out, according to the Premier. "However, I do not think the turnaround will take place."
Actually, the refinery will not close down entirely, said Oduber. "For the time being it will remain idle. They still have to continue providing WEB with fuel, to import gasoline, and continue to product diesel."

According to the Premier, the government has the obligation to protect the 500 Aruban contract-workers, which were dismissed per September 11th. "I spoke with a few of them. I told them that I could not promise anything, but that we will continue to keep a keen eye on their situation. I also spoke with the trade union IOWUA. They are aware of what’s going on and the worldwide situation." The Premier does not want any political games regarding the current situation of the refinery. "MEP is not the owner of the refinery. The only thing we can do is to make sure that the requirements to having a refinery remain valid."

The government will find another company, if PetroChina does not come through, "but the new operator must have its own oil". Operators are not all over the place, otherwise we would have had a new buyer for the refinery a long time ago, says Oduber. If it becomes necessary that the government should accommodate in order to accomplish this, then we will do so for the benefit of the Aruban economy, as well as to retain the refinery. "I think it’s important that Aruba has a refinery", said Premier Oduber, who by his own account looks forward to next Friday when the verdict will be announced in the arbitration case between the government and Valero. "I am convinced that this will be to our advantage; just like the case against Astec last week."