* Economy expected to grow 5-6 percent in 2012
* Car import sales surge 38 percent in Q1
* Expansion of retail outlets spurs diesel, gasoline imports
By Jessica Jaganathan
SINGAPORE, April 26 Diesel and gasoline imports
into the Philippines are expected to rise by at least 20 percent
this year as the country's economic growth is set to accelerate,
spurring fuel station operators to expand rapidly, industry
The Philippine economy grew slightly faster than expected in
the last quarter of 2011, with the government optimistic that
growth will pick up further this year to between 5 and 6
percent, from 3.7 percent for 2011.
The better economic outlook pushed imported car sales up by
38 percent in the first quarter compared with the same period
last year, the country's Association of Vehicle Importers and
Distributors said earlier this week.
This in turn is driving national oil companies and
independent operators in the country to compete for the biggest
market share in the retail oil network. Their massive expansion
plans are causing a spike in oil product imports for this year,
"It's all demand driven so companies are acquiring more and
building more retail stations," said a trader based in the
Philippines. "The outskirts of the country has not been fully
explored, so a lot of the expansion can be seen there."
MORE DIESEL/GASOLINE IMPORTS
The latest official government import statistics are not
available, but Seaoil Philippines, the country's largest
independent fuel company, has more than doubled its term imports
of oil products to 200,000 barrels a month this year - half
diesel and half gasoline.
It imported about 80,000 to 85,000 barrels a month of oil
products for its term last year, a source familiar with the
The company is expected to enter the spot market soon to
purchase additional barrels to cater to the increase in demand
from the expansion of its retail outlets, the source added.
Seaoil Philippines plans to add 100 retail stations by the
end of this year to the over 200 stations it currently operates.
The Philippines' biggest oil refiner, Petron Corp,
is expected to import about 20 to 30 percent more diesel over
January to June this year compared with last year, a second
source said. Exact volumes, however, are not known.
It plans to add 500 retail stations by the end of next year
to its current 1,800 stations, the source added.
Publicly listed independent oil firm Phoenix Petroleum
Philippines plans to open an additional 80 retail
stations by this year to add to its existing 240 stations, a
company source said.
Other top oil fuel pump station operators in the country
like Chevron and Shell are also investing heavily to expand over
the next five years.
But the expected spike in diesel and gasoline imports could
also be due to a shortfall in refining capacity in the country,
said Hun Sung Yen, a consultant with FACTS Global Energy.
"The wild card could likely be the drop in refinery run
rates, rather than a spike in demand itself," he said.
The increase in diesel imports is expected to push premiums
up for the 500 ppm sulphur diesel that the country uses, traders
Premiums for the grade have already surged 28 percent to
over $2 a barrel on Wednesday, from two months ago, Reuters data
(Reporting by Jessica Jaganathan; Editing by Chris Gallagher)