Oil output cut calls to mind Filipino-Saudi friendship

    Saudi Arabia has been in the news because of its giant developmental projects and generous donations to worthy causes and for being a peace broker.

    Recently, it hogged newspaper headlines by announcing a cut, starting July, in oil production to nine million barrels per day (mbd) from 10 mbd in May to stabilize oil prices.

    This instantly brought to mind the past when the Philippines approached the Kingdom for help in the wake of the oil crisis in 1973.

    The long-time Filipino diplomat Carlos P. Romulo traveled to Saudi Arabia to meet King Faisal bin Abdulaziz Al Saud to ask that the Philippines be included on the list of countries that would continue to receive oil from the Kingdom.

    Jun L. Nacion, retired overseas Filipino worker (OFW) in Riyadh and former community leader, said, “The oil crisis started in October 1973 when the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC), plus Egypt, Syria and Tunisia, announced an oil embargo. “

    Nacion was a Knight of Rizal Central Region Chapter (KOR-CRC) commander,  and also area commander for Saudi Arabia.

    The Philippines had laid out industrialization plans, which could not have been implemented because of the oil crisis. That it looked west for a solution was a move in the right direction.

    Restituto de Jesus, Filipino community leader in the Saudi capital, said, “We did the right thing in approaching Saudi Arabia for help. Like other countries, the Philippines was stranded on the road to industrialization.”

    Still active as a community leader, De Jesus was also a KOR-CRC commander and a member of the Council of Advisers and Prefectural Tribunal.

    He is connected with the Saudi Industrial Trading Company (SITCO).

      Romulo, with his gift of gab, international reputation as a diplomat and as the first Asian president of the United Nations General Assembly, managed to get Saudi’s assurance of steady supply of petroleum to the Philippines.

    Author of 16 books and winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Journalism, Romulo was the recipient of many doctorate degrees.

    When Romulo arrived in Saudi Arabia, King Faisal received him immediately and granted the Philippine request for oil.

    It was clear why the request was granted. King Faisal, while still a prince and the Kingdom’s delegate to the United Nations, helped Romulo in 1947.

      Romulo had delivered a speech at the UN against the partition of Palestine. When he stepped out of the UN building at Lake Success in New York, an angry crowd of demonstrators, mostly Jewish students, was waiting outside to “hiss and boo him”. Prince Faisal came to Romulo’s rescue when the Filipino was attacked by the Jewish demonstrators.

    The Saudi prince saw what was happening to Romulo and ordered his bodyguards to surround and protect him and escort him safely to his car.

    “I was able to reach the pier in time to board Queen Mary, where my wife, one of my sons and my aides were awaiting me,“ Romulo said in his book “A Third World Soldier at the UN”.

        He was referring to his first wife Virginia Llamas of Pagsanjan, Laguna. He would marry his second wife Beth Day much later.

    It was Nov. 26, 1947 and Romulo was scheduled to attend a meeting of the Human Rights Commission in Geneva, Switzerland.

   “He (the Prince) had not pressured me on the partition issue or any other questions involving Arab relations. He was dignified and a just man,” Romulo said in his book.

    Before his speech against the partition of Palestine, Romulo had already met the Saudi prince when they were delegates at the formation of the UN in San Francisco, California. Romulo headed the Philippine delegation.

    The Filipino delegation was booked at the St. Francis Hotel and Romulo’s suite was next to that of Prince Faisal’s.

    Romulo recalled in his book that he and Prince Faisal were once in the elevator together when a curious American teenager, eyeing the Saudi prince’s burnoose, a novelty in 1945 San Francisco, whispered to her companion, “I wonder what he wears underneath.”

    “Young lady,” Prince Faisal nodded regally towards her, “it’s a BVD,“ Romulo said in his book. BVD is the brand name of underwear manufactured by Bradley, Voorhees & Day in New York City.

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