After Malampaya sale, Shell names new boss

EYES WIDE OPEN - Iris Gonzales - The Philippine Star

Cesar Romero, who recently stepped down as country chair of Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corp., must be heaving a big sigh of relief.

Romero, who took the helm in 2016, could not have picked a better time to retire. After all, it’s been two years into a stressful and dizzying health pandemic, not to mention the landmark sale of Shell’s 45 percent stake in Malampaya to Davao-based businessman Dennis Uy.

The Malampaya sale was initially just another major strategic move on the part of Shell until buyer-related controversies propped up. From a landmark deal, the sale turned into a controversial transaction, even reaching the courts.

Despite the challenges and fortunately for Romero, a mechanical engineer from the University of the Philippines (cum laude) who rose from the ranks to become country chair of Shell, it seems he did not age and still looks not a day older than when he was appointed to the position six years ago.

There were other-not-so-easy issues that Romero also inherited, including tax disputes and the unfulfilled Malampaya service contract extension.

It’s not to say that it was all headaches though. There were a lot of innovations and transitions, and Romero successfully steered Pilipinas Shell through all of the changes.

The curtain on Romero’s six-year term, for instance, opened with the bell-ringing ceremony for Shell’s long delayed and much awaited initial public offering in November 2016.

Romero also implemented the shift in the company’s business focus, which was largely a reflection of the massive change in Royal Dutch Shell’s strategy as an energy giant as it transitions “to a lower-carbon future.”

Thus, Pilipinas Shell transformed its Tabangao refinery into a world-class import terminal.

He also successfully steered the company through the pandemic, with Shell swinging back to a net income of P3.4 billion from January to September 2021, a turnaround from the P13.9 billion net loss recorded the prior year.

With all the challenges he faced, I would not be surprised if Romero is, indeed, heaving a heavy sigh of relief now that he has stepped down to focus on family.

Shell’s first female country chair

Now, the task of running the multinational giant’s Philippine business has been passed on to Pilipinas Shell’s first ever female country chair, Lorelie Quiambao Osial, who has had 20 years of experience with the company prior to her appointment to the top post.

Her impressive CV says Osial is vice president for Global Finance Operations. She manages five major processes covering Shell’s businesses in more than 50 countries. She also served as CFO for Shell Philippines Exploration B.V., the operator of the Malampaya project.

She has been posted in conflict zones, including Iraq, where she was the finance manager for Basrah Gas Company (BGC), the world’s largest flare reduction project. She was responsible for the start-up and provision of world class finance to a portfolio of approximately 80 projects, with a $17 billion capital investment in a pioneering environment and one of the toughest external environments within the Shell portfolio.

Before Iraq, she held various positions in Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa since joining Shell Upstream in the Philippines in 2001.

A tale of two cum laudes

Like Romero, she is also a cum laude with a Bachelor of Science in Accountancy degree from the prestigious Silliman University and is a Certified Public Accountant in the Philippines. She also has a Master of Business Administration degree from the University of Western Australia.

It’s quite an impressive educational and professional background, all at the young age of 46.

But she has a challenging task ahead of her. Osial will have to steer Shell into the future, a drastically different post-pandemic era. Perhaps her principals know that someone with a finance and accounting background is necessary for this evolving post-COVID-19 business environment.


In the Chinese video game Genshin Impact, a widely-feared antagonist named Osial was described as an ancient God and a five-headed sea serpent who unleashed tempests and tsunamis.

Shell’s Osial, who faced journalists in a recent virtual gathering, exudes a warm and pleasant smile, and doesn’t look at all like she would unleash tempests and chaos.

On the contrary, she may be the one facing tsunamis and headwinds as the new boss of a multinational giant operating in a country as chaotic as ours.

Fortunately for her, she has the support and guidance of Shell’s Philippine team, its loyal customers and a competent board of directors whose members include esteemed independent directors Lydia  Echauz, Cesar Buenaventura, Amando Tetangco, Jr. and Fernando Zobel de Ayala.

In any case, I’m sure that someone who was fearless enough to accept a post in conflict-ridden Iraq will easily be able to navigate the unpredictable political and business climate here in our topsy-turvy country.



Iris Gonzales’ email address is [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @eyesgonzales. Column archives at eyesgonzales.com.


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