OIL REFINING and marketing company Petron Corp. will need to address the problem of low fuel consumption and demand even after it was able to register as an enterprise in the Bataan province’s freeport area, the company’s top official said on Thursday.

This comes around two months after the Authority of the Freeport Area of Bataan (AFAB) approved Petron’s registration, and the company’s subsequent commitment to invest nearly P3 billion to improve the operations of its 180,000 barrel-per-day refinery in Bataan.

“[The AFAB accreditation] can help, but it won’t necessarily overcome all the problems, because the problem is the low consumption of fuel, of demand. And then [there’s the] overcapacity of refining capacity in the world. There’s barely any refining margin,” Petron President and Chief Executive Officer Ramon S. Ang told reporters in a mix of English and Tagalog during a media briefing on Thursday.

Registration with the Bataan freeport allowed the refinery to avail of tax perks.

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

On Thursday, Mr. Ang also said the country’s fuel business would “improve if people are allowed to travel by cars, planes or vessels.”

“So if nobody can travel even next year, fuel and power demand will be low,” he said in a mix of English and Tagalog.

In December, the firm said that it would be halting its refinery plant operations in Bataan starting mid-January for “maintenance activities on key process units.”

Asked about how Petron’s operations in Malaysia were faring, Mr. Ang said that its oil business there was “much better than the Philippines.”

Shares of Petron in the local bourse inched up 1.28% or four centavos to close at P3.16 apiece on Thursday. — Angelica Y. Yang