No Country for Oil Refiners: Philippine Plants Shut on Weak Demand

FILE PHOTO: The Philippine oil refinery complex of Petron Corp. is seen on the coast of Bataan province. (Photo: ROMEO GACAD/AFP via Getty Images)

By Cecilia Yap and Dan Murtaugh

The Philippines has been left temporarily without any operating oil refineries as one of the world’s longest lockdowns eviscerates demand.

Petron Corp., the nation’s largest oil company, said Tuesday its 180,000 barrel-a-day refinery has been shut since May 5 for maintenance while fuel demand is low. Royal Dutch Shell Plc said the nation’s only other refinery remains temporarily shut after it took it down earlier this month when consumption dropped.

Officials from both plants said they would be able to meet their petroleum product needs from inventories or imports. The country’s economy is facing its deepest contraction in more than three decades after it became the first country in Southeast Asia to shut large swathes of its economy in mid-March

“Business is challenging,” Petron President Ramon Ang said. “Demand recovery will depend upon the lifting of the quarantine measures and, ultimately, finding a vaccine to fully restore mobility.”

Petron swung to a net loss of 4.9 billion pesos ($97 million) in the first quarter from a profit of 1.3 billion pesos a year ago as the value of its inventory collapsed along with prices. Shell’s Philippine unit posted a loss of 5.5 billion pesos during the period, compared with a 2.4 billion peso profit a year ago.

President Rodrigo Duterte began reopening the country’s economy earlier this month, allowing malls and some businesses in Manila to return May 16.

Asked via phone text message when he expected the refinery to restart, Petron’s Ang had a curt reply: “When there’s demand.”

© 2020 Bloomberg L.P.