31 May 2010

Telling the Truth to Chevron at Houston Shareholder Meeting

On May 26, FACES Aileen Suzara delivered testimony to Chevron CEOs, board members and shareholders at the Annual General Meeting telling the truth about Chevron's hazardous depot in Manila, the Philippines, and express solidarity with dozens of True Cost of Chevron Network activists unfairly denied entry.  Read below for the statement and media coverage:

Aileen Suzara's Testimony to Chevron Representatives

I first would echo the outrage expressed for the legal proxies who have been denied entrance to this meeting. They have traveled to speak to shareholders about Chevron’s true costs in their communities, from Ecuador, Canada, Australia, Burma, Colombia and more. Denying these voices is not a part of The Chevron Way.

I am here because over 80,000 Filipino residents live next to and are negatively impacted by Chevron’s depot in Manila, the Philippines. Chevron’s Manila depot operations are a threat to human health and the environment. People are suffering from exposure to depot emissions and constant spills, accidents and leaks. Rather than a proper buffer zone to protect residents from depot hazards, Chevron and its partners built a buffer that is only 15 meters wide, and contains a park where children walk and play.

Yet despite strong public outcry, numerous ordinances, and a clear order from the Supreme Court demanding its closure, your company continues to operate and refuses to leave. People in the Philippines want healthy lives free from the dangers and health effects of Chevron’s depot. They want to see their children grow up in a healthy and safe environment.

Chevron, when will you listen to the will of the people and safely relocate your depot? Will you go, or will you remain as you are?

Unless Chevron makes changes, vulnerable communities like those in the Philippines and those whose representatives wait outside these doors will continue to suffer. Take leadership and live up to the environmental and human rights principles you claim are the Chevron Way. To shareholders present today, you have the power to make Chevron the humane and healthy company it can and should be. Thank you.


28 May 2010

Chevron Denies Access to Shareholder Representatives In Bid to Silence Truth

Global Community Leaders Barred, Ejected and Arrested from Chevron Annual Meeting
For immediate release: May 26, 2010

Houston, TX - Shareholders and shareholder representatives from around the globe holding legal proxies were refused entry to Chevron's annual meeting today. Five members of The True Cost of Chevron Network subsequently arrested at the oil giants direction.

Communities affected by Chevron attempted to enter its annual meeting while more "True Cost of Chevron" network supporters rallied outside.

"Chevron CEO John Watson opened the annual shareholder meeting touting Chevron as a good neighbor and yet they locked the door for communities from Houston, Alaska, Canada, Burma, Nigeria, and Colombia. This is the way we have been treated at home and meeting them here was no different," explained Emem Okom, founder of the Kebetkuche Women Development and Resource Center of Nigeria.

Of the 37 delegates from the Network with validly executed proxy statements, only seven were allowed to enter the meeting, contradicting Chevron's own policies and in potential violations of corporate governance laws. Addressing the shareholders, Elias Isaac of Open Society Institute of Southern Africa, who has seen the results of Chevron's oil contaminations in Angola, said, "The disappearance of fish in Angola is a clear sign that Chevron is not compatible with the fishing business, despite John Watson's claims to the contrary during today's meeting."

Josh Coates from the Wilderness Society of Australia was denied admission into the meeting had a message for CEO Watson: "Today I've been denied the opportunity to give a clear message to Chevron and the shareholders that the proposed liquid natural gas processing facility in the Kimberley region of northwest Australia comes with unacceptable environmental costs. The Kimberley region in the west of Australia is a last refuge for many species in the region, including humpback whales and the endangered Australian flatback turtle. Chevron is pushing an off-shore processing facility in the home of the humpback, while other options exist." Coates noted.

Aileen Suzara, of the Filipino-American Coalition for Environmental Solidarity, was able to gain entrance into the meeting and addressed Chevron's operations in Manila, Phillipines, stating, "Over 80,000 residents in metro-Manila are threatened by Chevron's toxic fuel tanks, constant leaks, spills and emissions. Chevron refuses to relocate its depot despite the public outcry and a Philippine Supreme Court decision demanding closure."

Outside the meeting, activist Naing Htoo of EarthRights International from Burma was denied the opportunity to address the Board of Directors. Had he gained entrance, he would have told the company directly that, "Chevron continues lying to their shareholders and the public about human rights abuses associated with the Yadana Project in Burma. Even this year the UN Special Rapporteur for Burma documented the connection between human rights abuses and Chevron's project. It's time for Chevron to take responsibility for the harms they cause."

Of the five arrested, one was Antonia Juhasz, Lead Author of "*The True Cost
of Chevron:* *An Alternative Annual Report*". Juhasz was dragged from the meeting as shareholders and their proxies chanted, "Chevron Lies, People Die" and CEO John Watson abruptly ended the meeting.

Others arrested included Reverend Ken Davis, a member Community for a Better Environment, from Richmond, California, Juan Parras of Houston-based Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Solutions (TEJAS), and Mitchell Anderson and Han Shan of Amazon Watch; all arrested after being denied entrance. AmazonWatch works with Ecuadorian leaders like Guillermo Grefa, who was also denied entrance.

Before his arrest, Reverend Davis stated "I represent an area where there is no beauty shop, groceries, or cleaners. Our industry is Chevron. My people breathe their contamination every day and are constantly sick. Our health is not for sale."

The True Cost of Chevron Network will continue its effective alliance to expose and challenge the oil giant. For more information on the Network, visit *www.truecostofchevron.com*


Photos and videos at: http://justicenecology.posterous.com

26 May 2010

Messages from Houston

Aileen Suzara writes from Houston:

It's the second day in Houston. With FACES and our Manila partners, I've come here to join the story and the fighting spirit of the Philippines fencelines FACES partners with, together with communities around the globe - from Nigeria, Ecuador, Kazakhstan, Angola, Nigeria, Colombia, Iraq, Alberta, and from Richmond to Houston, USA. 

It's one powerful mix of people. In two days, we have already spoken to media at a press conference, voiced our stories at a public teach-in, and stood our ground outside and within Chevron's offices.

This morning, we woke early to stage a powerful action within and outside the Chevron Annual Shareholders Meeting. Waiting in line to enter the meeting, it was heartbreaking to witness dozens of allies denied access to the meeting, despite having legal documents as shareholder proxies. While a powerful sit-in was staged outside, a handful of us allowed into the meeting.

Inside the meeting, Chevron affirmed its continued profits despite the economic downturn. It praised its "Chevron Way" of respecting human rights, the environment, and claimed it improves the quality of life "everywhere it operates." There was a filmscreening of Chevron funded health clinics in Africa. But while intended to pull our heartstrings, we were not fooled. Our team of seven delegates took the floor and clearly delivered the call for accountability to Chevron representatives and stakeholders. 

We closed out the meeting with chants of "Chevron Lies, People Die" until the meeting was abruptly ended and the True Cost of Chevron lead editor, Antonia Juhasz, was arrested. Outside the meeting, where a nonviolent rally continued throughout the meeting, several activists were arrested for speaking truth.

Exhaustion, elation, outrage for our disenfranchised allies courses through my body. I'm proud to be here in solidarity with the Philippines, and humbled to be in the company of such courageous people - from a 71 year old grandmother from Ecuador speaking out about Chevron's poison pits, to Native youth from Canada speaking of Chevron's toxic extraction at ground zero. 

These are the toxic trails linking the depot in the Philippines with communities across the globe. And as the BP oil spill continues, it is a stark mirror for many Americans of the everyday issues faced by Global South and poor communities around the world.

"Our future and our destinies are connected - whether we like it or not," testified an Angolan activist to Chevron CEOs. So, too, is the fate of communities resisting Chevron. What we have gleaned out from this toxic tragedy is a great strength, and an even stronger drive to build our collective power. There is just too much at stake.

I'm excited to return and report to our friends and allies in the Philippines and with FACES. We must all work together to open more minds and hearts to the true costs of Chevron. More to come...

25 May 2010

The Pandacan Oil Depot: A Disaster Waiting to Happen

An Urgent Appeal From Advocates for Environmental and Social Justice (AESJ)

The disaster caused by the BP oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico is another stark reminder that the potential threat of deadly accidents from technical failure or human error and terrorist attacks in these oil industry facilities remain a constant reality. No amount of assurances about technical safety in accord with international standards can ensure 100% security to life, the environment and the economy. At this point, one can only take measures to mitigate the deadly consequences of such accidents and attacks. Unfortunately, oil companies like Chevron, despite much advertised avowals of social responsibility, continue to ignore such precautions especially in developing countries like the Philippines.

At the heart of Manila, spanning 36 hectares, lies a ticking time bomb, the Pandacan oil depot, owned and operated by Chevron together with Shell and Petron, a locally-owned company. Containing 313 million liters of gasoline, diesel, bunker fuel, jet fuel and other highly volatile chemical substances, the giant facility, one of the largest in the world, lies amidst populated areas, sprawled along Manila’s Pasig River system that, by a short distance, reaches out to the country’s principal harbor in Manila Bay and Laguna Lake, the country’s largest inland body of water. A major explosion in the Pandacan oil depot has the potential of wreaking havoc not only in the immediate surrounding communities but also in these water systems with the communities along its banks and the transport, trade and industry that it serves.

Unfortunately, the Pandacan oil depot has no real buffer zone to speak of. Some years ago, as a reaction to protests, Shell and Petron belatedly put a farcical “buffer zone” of 8 to 15 meters, which they even cynically turned, into so-called “linear parks” for the surrounding communities’ leisure and recreation! For Chevron, the loading bay for its tankers fronts the main and busy thoroughfare of Pandacan and together with its storage tanks lie just a wall away from a church-run high school of 3000 students and a populated community.

Accidents have occurred in the past within and outside the Pandacan oil depot including explosions along its pipeline from nearby Batangas province, leaks in its storage tanks, and exploding tankers on the road. These accidents have claimed lives, injured many and destroyed substantial property. But they are as yet simply lucky close calls. In much smaller facilities in US, UK, Canada, Puerto Rico, India and elsewhere, technical failures and human error have triggered massive explosions which spread out as far as 2 to 3 kilometers away. Add to this the ongoing and very real threat of terrorist attacks. A similar blast in Pandacan could potentially the biggest disaster waiting to happen in the petrochemical industry.

Many proposals in the past to relocate the depot have mysteriously been abandoned or circumvented. The more recent, more progressive and bold ones have been Manila City Ordinance 8027 and Ordinance 8119. These city legislation gained strong and popular support, the former even having been affirmed and praised in a remarkable decision by the Philippine Supreme Court for putting primacy to right to life (of residents) over right to property (of the oil companies). The high court's decision would have allowed the gradual but definite phase and relocation of the oil depot to a safer place.

The hard-won victory of the people was however reversed immediately. City Ordinance NO. 8187 was railroaded, in the guise of a zoning ordinance, permitting the introduction into Manila of highly pollutive and extremely hazardous industries to accommodate the continued stay of the oil depot in Pandacan. Instead of protecting the environment, the safety and health of the people, the continued stay of the depot serves the interests of the oil companies.

Clearly, oil depots are never safe from technical failure, human accidents or terrorist attacks; the only safe measure that can be adopted is for the oil depot to be located in an area with a proper buffer zone from the nearest communities. 

ALTERNATIVES: An appeal for life and the environment

Phase out and relocation of the Pandacan oil depot to a safer place is the only answer. The area occupied by the depot can then be developed anew and pave the way for the establishment of commercial enterprises, service institutions like schools, clinics or a hospital, recreational and cultural facilities as well as affordable housing for the urban poor of Manila. The possibilities for development as well as new and much greater employment opportunities are varied and numerous.

To avoid disaster and to uphold life, health and the environment with these alternatives, we appeal to Chevron’s AGM to swiftly and decisively take the lead in working out a phase-by-phase plan to relocate the Pandacan oil depot to a safer area. We propose that Chevron AGM set up a special commission which will, together, with relevant US NGOs concerned with the Pandacan oil depot issue as well as with Pandacan stakeholders, undertake an investigation of the actual situation of Chevron’s facility in Pandacan and explore appropriate sites and requirements for the soonest possible relocation.

Advocates for Environmental and Social Justice (AESJ)
Manila, Philippines

17 May 2010

FACES on the Road to Houston, Face-Off with Chevron

From Manila to the SF Bay to Houston, FACES will connect Chevron’s toxic trail to the oil giant’s shareholders annual general meeting (AGM) on May 26, 2010. Historically hosted at their world headquarters in San Ramon CA, Chevron shifted its AGM location this year, trying to escape the protester stronghold of the San Francisco Bay Area. But the protest is going to follow them to Houston!

FACES Board Chair, Aileen Suzara, will join an international delegation of the True Cost of Chevron Network converging in Houston to face-off with Chevron inside the AGM (as proxies) and outside the gates with a colorful protest. Aileen will carry messages and visuals from the frontline communities of Manila to continue to demand that Chevron relocate their massive oil depots. FACES will combine our Filipino struggles with the many others around the globe — Nigeria, Ecuador, Burma and more — who are all campaigning to get Chevron to take responsibility for the harm it has inflicted on a multitude of communities and countries.

Even in struggle, FACES will find solidarity with the many representatives around the world organizing against Chevron. This year will mark the first of an international strategy session. We know that these fights will take years. But with each year marked by the AGM gathering, we will also have the chance to hear directly from allies about advances in each other’s campaigns.

FACES will tell our allies about our progress over the last year. We will them how we were able to step into Chevron’s world headquarters in September 2009 and register our depot relocation demand directly with US & Philippines-based managers of Chevron. We will them how we were able to prevent the US Secretary of State from handing Chevron Philippines the Award for Corporate Excellence. And how frontline community groups like Advocates for Environmental and Social Justice (AESJ) were able to mobilize thousands of Manila voters to oppose the oil depot with a strong People’s Initiative petition. There is much to tell.

And as oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico, as the burning of oil pollutes the air we breathe, and as people fall ill from oil operations around the world, we will make our way to Chevron’s meetings. We will go wherever Chevron holds its AGM because we have to counter the corporation’s glossy reports with our communities’ realities. There is a cost to Chevron’s profit, and the accounts of the devastation of our communities must be told — to shareholders and the public. So Houston, here we come!