January 20, 2019

The Inauguration of the Caltex Oil Refinery in Bauan, Batangas by President Ramon Magsaysay in 1954

Photo of the Caltex Refinery in San Pascual/Bauan.  Image source:  Caltex.com.
[In this article: Caltex refinery, Chevron Philippines, Batangas Province, Bauan Batangas, San Pascual Batangas, President Ramon Magsaysay, Speaker Jose B. Laurel Jr., Governor Feliciano Leviste, Congressman Apolinario Apacible, Malacañang, Bishop Alejandro Olalia]
On 6 December 1954, then-President Ramon Magsaysay, who had overwhelmingly won the presidential elections over incumbent Elpidio Quirino the previous year, sat down for a breakfast meeting – presumably at Malacañang Palace – with executives of Caltex Philippines1. These were W. S. Bramstedt, the company’s visiting President; J. P. Roxas, Manager of the Sales Promotion; and C. Roesholm, President of the company’s Philippine Branch.

The officials formally invited Magsaysay to attend inauguration of the company’s new oil refinery in Bauan on the 11th of the same month2. Contemporary readers will probably know the refinery to be in present-day San Pascual. This town, however, used to be part of Bauan until it was made into a distinct municipality in 1969.

Magsaysay accepted the invitation and expressed his appreciation to the visitors “for the establishment of a multi-million peso refinery in Bauan which, he said, set an example for foreign investors wishing to establish their plants in the Philippines.”

Five days later, the President flew on board a four-seater plane to Bauan, landing just before lunch on an auxiliary airstrip in the town3. He was accompanied by Brigadier General Eulogio Balao, Vice-Chief of Staff; and Major Emilio Borromeo, Presidential Aide.

He was met by then-Speaker of the House of Representatives Jose B. Laurel Jr., Batangas Governor Feliciano Leviste and Congressman Apolinario Apacible of the 1st District of Batangas. Magsaysay was a popular President, and an “enthusiastic crowd” must have turned up at the airstrip to greet him.

According to the Official Gazette, from which we obtain details of the visit, he expressed his appreciation to those who had shown up to welcome him before motoring to the refinery accompanied by Laurel, Leviste and Apacible. There, they were received by Bramstedt and Roesholm, along with Lipa Bishop Alejandro Olalia and Raymund A. Spruance, then-American Ambassador to the Philippines.

Before the inauguration of the oil facility, Magsaysay was taken on a tour of the Caltex hospital by Jose Leviste, chief of the hospital. The hospital tour was followed by an inspection of the refinery compound. Magsaysay and his small party then had lunch with his hosts, after which he remarked that the building of a refinery was the “logical result of the traditional friendship between the people of the Philippines and the people of America.”



He added that the refinery “was not a threat of exploitation but rather a welcome opportunity for gainful employment for many of our people and was a vigorous stimulus to those of our own industrial efforts which it would serve” and that it was “a striking justification of the Wisdom of this nation’s [i.e., the Philippines’] policy of finding in Western friendship a means of wholesome cooperation, rather than destructive rivalry.”

Magsaysay congratulated the Caltex officials for their “farsighted and progressive policies” and bade them to “carry back to your own people a vivid impression of the hospitality they will find, should they decided to follow the trail you have blazed.”

He then awarded the Philippine Legion of Honor4 to Brahmstedt and Roesholm, personally pinning the medal to the former and requesting Laurel to do the honors for the latter. Afterwards, he pushed the ceremonial button “which set the refinery’s whistle blowing, symbolizing the official inauguration of the ₱60 million plant.”

Magsaysay left for Manila shortly after the ceremonies and was back at Malacañang by late afternoon.

Just as a footnote to this article, Caltex Philippines closed the refinery in 2003 and in its place opened a ₱750 million “world class finished product import terminal5.

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Notes and references:
1 Caltex is “a petroleum brand name of Chevron Corporation used in more than 60 countries in the Asia-Pacific region, the Middle East, and Southern Africa.” The name is the shortened version of California Texas Oil Company, a joint venture between the Texas Company and Standard Oil of California. “Caltex,” Wikipedia.
2 “Official Gazette of the Republic of the Philippines, Volume 50 Number 12,” online at the Internet Archive.
3 Information about Magsaysay’s refinery visit also from the Official Gazette. Op cit.
4 The Philippine Legion of Honor “is conferred upon a Filipino or foreign citizen in recognition of valuable and meritorious service in relation to the military affairs of the Republic of the Philippines. It is thus the primary order of military merit of the Republic of the Philippines.” “Philippine Legion of Honor,” Wikipedia.
5Caltex closes refinery,” by Donabelle L. Gatdula, published 2003, online at The Philippine Star.

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