General Colin Powell; our brother Oscar de Venecia, Pioneer in oil exploration

Published October 24, 2021, 12:13 AM

by Former Speaker Of The House Jose De Venecia Jr

PEACE-MAKER

Jose de Venecia Jr.
Former Speaker of the House

We join the American people in mourning the passing of a distinguished soldier and remarkable statesman, General Colin Powell.

General Powell served as national security adviser during the presidency of Ronald Reagan, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under President George H.W. Bush, and secretary of state to President George W. Bush, which coincided with some of the most turbulent times in American, and world, history, most notably the 1991 Gulf War, the US’ war on terror, and America’s invasion of Afghanistan in the aftermath of 9/11 terrorist attacks. 

This columnist had the privilege of conferring with General Powell in the course of our modest initiatives in political party- and parliamentary diplomacy in the international community – when we were Speaker of the House of Representatives. 

We were impressed by his profound understanding of global affairs and his strategic mind. We also found him to be a good-natured fellow. 

Perhaps one of General Powell’s undoing was when he argued and presented “evidence” at the UN, indeed before the global community, that then Iraqi President Saddam Hussein possessed biological weapons, which would justify and eventually led tothe US invasion of Iraq. His claim was later proven to be unfounded as no “weapons of mass destruction” were found in Iraq. Powell himself later regretted committing such blunder.  

Speaking of Saddam Hussein, we had the privilege of meeting him when we undertook mass housing and infrastructure projects in the oil-rich country of Iraq as a pioneering businessman in the Middle East and North Africa in the mid-1970s until the early 1980s. 

Much later, in 1997, as then Speaker of the House, we met with him again to negotiate the release of three Filipinos who were sentenced to life imprisonment in a Baghdad prison. 

We were received by Saddam Husseinin his underground headquarters in Tikrit, his hometown, located on the west bank of the Tigris River about 100 miles (160 km) northwest of capital Baghdad. 

By the grace of God, Saddam Hussein granted freedom to the three Filipinos and we brought them home.

Having spent some of our best years in the Middle East, we are deeply saddened by the dreadful turn of events in Iraq and the Middle East in recent years. 

*****

Four days ago, our older brother, Oscar de Venecia, passed away at the age of 89.

Growing up in our hometown in Dagupan, Oscar and we were the closest among eight siblings, perhaps because he was older than us by only four years and we shared common interests.

We went swimming in the Lingayen Gulf, caught small crabs in the shore, went fishing, and climbed trees in our family farm in Santa Barbara, fifteen kilometers west of Dagupan and where we escaped from the invading Japanese forces during World War II. 

Years later, Oscar and we were pioneering business partners in port operations and electrification in Saudi Arabia; oil exploration in the United Arab Emirates; mass housing and infrastructure in Iraq, Kuwait, Jordan, and Libya. 

We were also the first to struck oil in Palawan in the 1970s. 

Oscar was soft-spoken but firm in his decisions, gentle in manner but tough on discipline. He loved joking around but frowned on idleness and encouraged excellence.

He served as president of the Rotary Club of Makati West, district governor of Rotary International District 3830, vice chairman of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI), and a long-time member of the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP). 

He also served as honorary consul general of Ukraine in the Philippines, where he was bestowed the distinguished service award by the Ukraine government. 

As chairman of the 53-year-old Basic Energy Corporation, Oscar de Venecia steered the publicly listed holding company into one of the leading firms in the Philippines, with interests in various fields of renewable energy and alternative fuels, and oil and gas exploration and development. 

Farewell, Oscar. We will surely miss you.

 
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