Dos Bocas on Pause Due to COVID-19?By Peter Appleby | Thu, 03/26/2020 - 17:25
The construction of one of the administration’s defining public works, the Dos Bocas refinery, is being threatened by the COVID-19 pandemic as government officials from Tabasco halt non-essential work during Phase 2 of Mexico’s virus spread.
In articles published by El Heraldo de Tabasco, the President of the state’s COPARMEX chapter, José Luis Zúñiga, said: “We believe that the construction of the refinery could be postponed during the time that the COVID 19 contingency lasts, since this reduces the risk of spreading the disease.” Zúñiga’s opinion comes a week after Minister of Energy Rocío Nahle gave a presentation via video link during the president’s daily morning conference, in which she appeared at the Dos Bocas construction site. The minister assured the audience that she was in the company of doctors and paramedics who were permanently at the site to look after workers.
The refinery has generated fierce debate since its inception. The government’s stated budget of US$8 billion and construction timeline of just three years has been criticized by many in the private sector as being unrealistic, while others have questioned why it is a priority when the six other refineries in Mexico’s National Refinery System have, in recent years, functioned at average capacities as low as 30 percent.
On March 17, El Heraldo de Tabasco published an article that pointed out a number of health and safety concerns at the Dos Bocas site. Among these were a lack of checks of personnel entering the construction site, no masks being used by on-site workers nor any antibacterial gel, though the article does point out that the site is guarded by the Mexican navy and workers wear the correct safety uniforms.
As of Wednesday evening, there are 12 confirmed cases in Tabasco according to Tabasco Hoy. A further 31 patients are suspected to be carrying the virus, while 78 others have tested negative.