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Frenemies on helping mode

/ 08:22 PM August 20, 2013

As a general rule, consumers benefit when companies compete to provide better and cheaper services to the market. However, in the case of local calamities—like the Habagat and Tropical Storm Maring—induced rains and flooding of the last three days—the familiar competition among the country’s biggest corporations is also proving to be a boon to the people.

One of the earliest off the corporate social responsibility starting block was San Miguel Corp., which donated 3,000 cases of bottled water and more than 1,500 boxes of canned goods and coffee to flood victims in Parañaque City and the hard-hit provinces of Laguna and Cavite. An estimated 30,000 beneficiaries were reached through the San Miguel Foundation.

The conglomerate also turned over some P3 million worth of relief goods to the Department of Social Welfare and Development for the latter to distribute to critically affected areas.


Meanwhile, Petron Corp. chose to focus on Rosario, Cavite (the site of its recently cleaned-up oil spill) by donating goods to an estimated 2,000 beneficiaries.

The conglomerate also activated its in-house disaster response team, which is equipped with its own speedboats and an amphibious vehicle (bought in the aftermath of the 2009 Ondoy tragedy) for rescue and relief operations.

Not to be outdone, SMC’s corporate rival—the PLDT group— also had its own initiatives spearheaded by its Maynilad unit, which sent water tankers to relief centers, responding to the request of its former president, Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson.

The Philippine Business for Social Progress chaired by Manuel Pangilinan, meanwhile, is “putting together relief packages,” while Metro Pacific Investments Corp. and PLDT have committed to donate money for relief efforts.

According to spokesperson Mike Toledo, the group has also mobilized helicopters in an effort to get relief goods delivered to the Cavite provincial capitol (weather permitting, of course).

Finally, the SM group yesterday announced that it was turning its nationwide network of shopping malls into one large chain of drop-off centers for relief goods, which it would then hand over to authorities. Donation bins would be made available in the malls, it said.

While employees were not required to report for work, SM said its malls would be manned by some of its personnel to allow those stranded by the rains and floods to “find temporary safe shelter” (similar to what it did during past weather disturbances).

So yes, competition is good.  Daxim L. Lucas


LPG monopoly?

Liquigaz Philippines Corp. is said to be for sale and Petron Corp., the country’s top oil player, is interested in buying it. Surely, mergers are nothing new, but small oil players say the possibility gives them the creeps.

Rep. Arnel Ty of the LPG Marketer’s Association or LPGMA, at the recent hearing on the Department of Energy’s (DOE) budget, was adamant that such a deal might be underway and something must be done about it.

Apparently, Liquigaz parent SHV Energy of the Netherlands has already talked to not one, not two, but seven prospective buyers. A shortlist then left three candidates, of which Petron is the leader with its P2.7-billion offer. Apparently, while Ty already knows about the sale, Liquigaz officials may not.

“They may not know about it yet,” Ty said. By now, perhaps, they do, but no one is confirming the proposed sale.

According to industry estimates, Petron has a 43-percent share in the LPG market and Liquigaz has about 35 percent. Ty and other LPG industry stakeholders (plus some soon-to-be LPG distributors) say this means Petron will corner the lion’s share of the market if it does buy Liquigaz.

Another thing that has Ty smelling fumes is that, apparently, Liquigaz’s book value is only P1.7 billion, which is a lot lower than the supposed offer of P2.7 billion from Petron.

Ty says he had brought the issue up with the DOE but was told that since the industry has been deregulated and there is no anti-trust law in the country, the sale could push through (at least in theory).

“The reason the industry was deregulated was to encourage new players. If mergers like this will happen and create monopolies anyway, then we should just re-regulate the industry,” Ty said.

We asked, why don’t we just pass an Anti-Trust Law? To this, Ty said, “There was a proposal but it did not pass the 15th Congress. I’m not really optimistic because big businesses will likely lobby against it.”

What to do, what to do?  Riza T. Olchondra

Purisima’s sleuthing

Advice to restaurant operators: Issue receipts and pay the right taxes.

After all, the finance secretary himself, disguised as a regular customer, could be entering your doors to investigate your tax compliance.

Consumed with the need to curb tax evasion and boost government revenues, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima has developed the penchant for determining whether the government is getting its fair share in the profits of restaurants when he enters one. During the anniversary celebration of the Bureau of Internal Revenue recently, Purisima urged tax personnel to go after tax evading restaurants, such as those located in lucrative tourist areas.

He said that when he was in Boracay recently, he entered one of the popular restaurants to investigate. He counted the number of customers an hour and estimated the values of their purchases. Based on his calculations, he believes the BIR is losing substantial potential revenues due to tax evasion of restaurants.

“One of the techniques [to determine tax evasion] is to count the number of customers per hour, estimate their consumption and compare the findings to taxes collected,” Purisima said in a speech before BIR employees.

He also said there were only 137 restaurants in Boracay that are registered with the BIR. “Are there really only 137 restaurants there?”

Purisima asked, urging them to do some digging and go after tax evaders.

With his tough task of shoring up government revenues in a country where tax evasion is rampant, it should not be too surprising that the finance chief would sometimes spend sleepless nights doing the math and entering restaurants to do some tax investigations himself.  Michelle Remo

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