Fri, 21 Mar 2003

Energy firms vow business as usual

A'an Suryana, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Regardless of the war in Iraq, which began yesterday morning, several multinational energy companies operating in Indonesia say their businesses are running as usual.

They also underlined the fact that none of their expatriate employees had left Indonesia amid fears of anti-American demonstrations that may target them.

Anang Rizkani Noor, deputy director for external relations at Australian mining firm PT Rio Tinto Indonesia, said the company had yet to execute any contingency plans despite the U.S.-led attack on Iraq, saying that the situation here remained favorable.

"We also believe that the domestic situation in the coming days will remain favorable, despite the war," Anang said.

His optimistic view was attributed to the fact that Iraq war campaign, which had been drummed by the U.S. since last year, had not sparked any domestic reactions so far that could harm the company's operations and its foreign employees.

The companies also admitted that they had no special plans to evacuate their expatriates, following the outbreak of war.

In a written statement made available to the Post, U.S. oil and gas giant ExxonMobil Oil Indonesia Inc. acknowledged that "currently, there are no plans to relocate employees or dependents of the ExxonMobil Oil Indonesia Inc."

ExxonMobil Oil is operating in the war-torn province of Aceh in north Sumatra and the Central Java town of Cepu.

However, the companies are apparently ready to anticipate any worst-case scenarios the war may cause to them and their staff, especially expatriate staff.

Precautionary measures have long been a part of their standard operating procedures, not just in response to a possible war, they said.

PT Rio Tinto, for example, has set up emergency teams at both the company and its subsidiaries, including PT Kelian Equatorial Mining (KEM) and PT Kaltim Prima Coal (KPC).

Both KEM and KPC are operating in East Kalimantan.

"These teams always review current social and political developments in the country, and they are ready to anticipate possible social problems that may harm the staff of the company," said Anang.

These teams, for instance, had installed hotlines with local air transportation companies, so in the case a disturbance broke out, they could immediately take their employees to a safe location, Anang said.

U.S. oil company PT Caltex Pacific Indonesia, which operates in Riau, had also taken similar measures.

"We have coordinated with the local police to protect our company and its people," said Renville Almatsier, the company's spokesman.

Meanwhile, copper and gold mining company PT Newmont Nusa Tenggara expected that the government and police force could safeguard its operations in the wake of the Iraq war.

"We believe the government and the police will ensure the safety of our staff and assets," said senior manager for external relations Robert Humberson, as quoted by Antara.