Source: Business Mirror

Thailand has expressed interest in participating in the Philippines’ Public-Private Partnership (PPP) Program in terms of investments and in sharing its successful PPP experience with the Philippines, Energy Secretary Jose Rene Almendras said over the weekend.

In a news briefing in Jakarta on Saturday, Almendras said Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva showed interest in the country’s PPP program during a bilateral meeting with President Aquino at the sidelines of the 18th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Summit in the Indonesian capital.

“The Prime Minister of Thailand was actually very, very interested. He was literally asking what are the projects, what can we do, are you going to build elevated highways?….There’s a lot more time spent discussing the PPP opportunities and how Thailand wanted to come to the Philippines to invest and also to share their own experience on the PPP,” he said.

Almendras said Mr. Aquino gave the Thai officials a list of potential PPP projects in the country. 
He said the Thai officials told their Philippine counterparts “that they wanted to discuss it some more because they have some ideas and proposals on how PPP worked in other countries.”

“I think there’s a lot of opportunity in that,” Almendras said.

Almendras also said the Philippines urged Thailand to encourage “more participation” of its oil companies, such as PTT Public Co. Ltd.—a major petroleum company in that country—in the Philippine oil retail market to help spur competition.

He said he coursed the proposal through the Thai Trade Minister, since his Thai counterpart was not at the bilateral meeting.

“We did present…our proposal. We wanted and we are inviting PTT, a major petroleum company of Thailand, to play a more active role in the retail market of petroleum in the Philippines,” Almendras said.

He said there has been a “disparity in fuel pricing between locations” in the Philippines, as illustrated by the P6 difference in fuel prices between Cebu and Manila last year, which had prompted Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia to file a case against oil companies in early 2010.

But Almendras said between that time and April 14, the difference between fuel prices in Cebu and certain areas in Metro Manila has narrowed down to “less than a peso difference…and in some occasions, certain gas stations in Cebu were selling diesel at lower prices than in Metro Manila.”

“We were asking, what did we do to correct the situation? It was really a function of competition. It was on this basis that we made the invitation to the government of Thailand, through the Minister of Trade of Thailand, to try to encourage more expansion or more investments or more participation of the Thai oil companies in the downstream fuel distribution network in the Philippines,” he said.

“We both agreed to try to bring PTT and other Thai oil companies to the Philippines and I will host them or the other way around—I will go to Thailand and do a presentation to them on how deregulated our downstream oil industry is,” he said.

“At the end of the day we are trying to attract as many large oil players as we can because we only have two left,” he said, referring to Petron and Shell since the third big player, Chevron, “has started selling some of its gas stations already.”

“So it’s only Petron and Shell there. It is to the consumers’ advantage to have many more large players who can participate in a big way…because that’s when prices do come down,” Almendras said.