PETRON CORP. is infusing close to P3 billion to improve its refinery operations in Bataan, after securing approval from the Authority of the Freeport Area of Bataan (AFAB) to register in the province’s freeport area, the firm told the local bourse on Monday.

“As part of its commitment to AFAB, the Company is expecting to undertake in the next five (5) years several capital investments amounting to nearly P3 billion to further improve the efficiency of the integrated operation of its Petron Bataan Refinery,” Petron said in a statement.

In a regulatory filing, the oil company also confirmed that it was able to register as an enterprise of the Freeport Area of Bataan, and this would play a part in improving its financial survival.

“The AFAB registration of the refinery facility of the Company will help make its refining business more competitive by improving its financial viability in the long run and address some of its major concerns,” Petron said.

Last month, the listed company said that it would be temporarily halting operations of its 180,000-barrel-per-day crude oil refinery, the country’s sole facility of its kind, shortly after a rival closed its own.

Petron President and Chief Executive Officer Ramon S. Ang previously said that the oil company would be suspending its operations in its Limay, Bataan plant starting mid-January to reduce losses due to weak margins.

On Monday, the company told the Philippine Stock Exchange that the refinery’s economic shutdown would proceed “early this year.”

Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi earlier said that the agency respected Petron’s decision to shutter its oil refinery as it was the firm’s business decision.

Mr. Cusi also said that he supported Petron’s proposal to turn its refinery into a special economic zone under the Philippine Economic Zone Authority. He added that the closure of the refinery would not affect oil supply.

In the third quarter, Petron reported that it had returned to profitability as it posted a P1.63 billion consolidated net income, which was mainly driven by retailing margins. In the second quarter last year, the firm incurred losses of P9.36 billion.

Shares in Petron on Monday improved 7.01% to close at P3.97 apiece. — Angelica Y. Yang