corporate

Food industry expects minimal impact on food supply amid ECQ

May 15, 2020

THE country's food industry such as Aboitiz food business unit Pilmico Foods Corporation echoed the government's assertion on sufficient food supply amid uncertainties brought about by the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.     “Pilmico’s business continuity plans are in place and running, and this has allowed us to operate business as usual to meet the needs of our stakeholders," said Tristan Aboitiz, president and CEO of Pilmico Foods Corporation, in a statement on Tuesday.     "We have rigorously implemented our strict biosecurity processes to ensure the safety of our teams who report to work, and our supply chain has remained largely intact during the various ECQs (enhanced community quarantine) that have been implemented across the country. This means that our facilities are prepared to continuously cater to the requirements of our customers, which should allow us to deliver our products and meet their needs,” he said.     During the last meeting of the Inter-agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID), the Department of Agriculture (DA) presented the food supply outlook for 2020, with most commodities actually forecast to end at a surplus by year-end.     In April, the DA was assigned to chair the Task Group on Food Security created by the IATF-EID.     According to the adjusted DA report, the projected supply by the end of December 2020 will be 94 days worth for rice, 234 days for corn, two days for fish, six days for vegetables, and 253 days for chicken.     Pilmico assured the public and its stakeholders that its operations remain normal.     “As a leadership team, we have spent the last few weeks learning as much as we can about the disease, and assessing how it has impacted and will continue to impact our industry. It is critical that we understand how it affects our team members, customers, and communities, so we can make the necessary changes to different aspects of our operations,” Aboitiz said.     “Our company remains committed to helping sustain the food value chain by consistently being present and delivering raw materials needed to continue food production,” Aboitiz said.     “The flour and feed mills in Iligan and Tarlac, as well as farms, continue to operate, serving the needs of the customers despite challenges in logistics and distribution which can be attributed to COVID-19,” he added.     Aboitiz said that Pilmico’s Southeast Asian facilities are operating normally as well.     Last year, the company fully acquired Gold Coin, an international food group that operates within Southeast Asia (SEA), making Pilmico a significant regional player.     “We are currently focused on ensuring that our current production facilities across the (SEA) region are optimized and that utilization is maintained at a high level so that we can adequately cater to the needs of our customers,” said Pilmico and Gold Coin Food Group President and CEO Hubert de Roquefeuil.     “Needless to say, this includes integrating seamlessly with Food Group Philippines, in order to optimize synergies in procurement and cross-selling across countries,” he said. (PR)

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Local airlines cancel commercial flights until May 31

May 15, 2020

PHILIPPINE Airlines (PAL), Cebu Pacific, Cebgo and Philippines AirAsia on Wednesday announced the extension of the suspension of their commercial flights until May 31.     The local carriers issued their advisories after the government’s decision extending the so-called “community quarantine” period in Metro Manila and other areas until the end of May.     PAL, operated by PAL Holdings, Inc., said: “We confirm that all Philippine Airlines domestic flights to or from our hubs in Manila, Cebu and Clark will remain canceled up to May 31, 2020.”     The flag carrier also said it was “evaluating the possibility of flying international routes and/or domestic routes to and from its Davao hub, in coordination with concerned government authorities.”     “We will announce any planned flights once these are finalized,” PAL added.     PAL plans to operate a reduced number of weekly flights on most domestic routes and on selected international routes by June 1. “But this will depend on the COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) conditions: community quarantine restrictions, travel bans imposed by various governments and their impact on  passenger demand, and above all on the public health and safety situation in each of the countries that PAL serves,” it said.     Affected PAL passengers can convert their tickets to a travel voucher. They may also rebook their tickets for free or request a refund without penalties.     Cebu Pacific, operated by Cebu Air, Inc., and its subsidiary Cebgo said its domestic and international flights remain canceled from May 16 to 31.     Philippines AirAsia, Inc. also canceled all its domestic and international flights until the end of May.     Cebu Pacific and Cebgo said affected passengers can rebook their travel tickets for free, place the full cost of their tickets in a travel fund valid for one year, or request a full refund.     “Processing of refunds will start after the Community Quarantine is lifted and regular work schedules resume. However, due to the unprecedented volume of requests for refunds, the process will take as long as three (3) to four (4) billing cycles,” Cebu Pacific said.     For its part, Philippines AirAsia said its guests with existing flight bookings made on or before 12 May 2020 with a departure date between March 23 and July 31, 2020 can select any new travel date before October 31, 2020 on the same route for an unlimited number of times without any additional cost, subject to seat availability.     Philippines AirAsia also said its guests can choose to retain the value of their tickets in the AirAsia BIG Member account for future travel with the airline to be redeemed within 730 calendar days from the issuance date.     “The travel date of the new booking can fall on any date within the published flight schedule on airasia.com,” it added.     AirAsia Group Berhad announced recently the new rules that its passengers will have to follow when flight operations resume after the government-imposed lockdown period. It said guests will be required to bring and wear their own face masks before, during and after flight. Guests without masks will be denied boarding.     PAL assured the public that all its aircraft have air filtration systems, and all its crew will be in full personal protective equipment to protect every passenger on board against viruses. Social-distancing cabin seating options as well as simplified meal or snack service will also be carried out.     Cebu Pacific passengers, as in other airlines, will also be required to wear face masks upon entry at the airport terminal and for the duration of the flight.     The budget carrier will minimize face-to-face contact between its ground staff and passengers.

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SMC abandons Holcim buy as PCC closes to end review

May 15, 2020

THE Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) has learned that San Miguel Corp. (SMC) pulled out its plan of acquiring Holcim Philippines, Inc. (HPI) when the antitrust body is nearly finished with the second phase of the review of the transaction.     SMC made a disclosure to the Philippine Stock Exchange Monday about backing out from the deal but PCC said it has yet to receive formal notice from both parties withdrawing the transaction.     SMC subsidiary First Stronghold Cement Industries Inc. (FSCII) will no longer buy the 85.73 percent share of HPI after the agreement has expired in accordance with its terms.     The acquisition deal amounts to USD2.15 billion.     “The Commission notes that the 10 May 2020 deadline was internally agreed upon by the transacting parties and was within their prerogative to extend as needed,” the PCC said in a statement Tuesday.     The PCC is doing the Phase 2 review of the transaction but was suspended, along with all proceedings, due to the enhanced community quarantine.     SMC and HPI have yet to get PCC’s nod after its Merger and Acquisition Office flagged competition concerns arising from the transaction, such as monopoly in Northwest Luzon and increased market power and potential collusion among inter-related cement companies controlled by FSCII in the Northeast Luzon, Central Luzon, and Greater Metro Manila areas.     “The Phase 2 review of the transaction was suspended upon the parties’ submission of voluntary commitments. PCC rejected the proposed commitments after they were found insufficient to address the competition concerns, reverting the transaction to Phase 2 review. The parties, however, have yet to file their respective comments to answer the competition concerns raised in the SOC,” the antitrust body said. (PNA)

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SMC drops $2-B Holcim acquisition

May 12, 2020

SAN MIGUEL Corp. (SMC) is terminating its $2.15-billion acquisition of Holcim Philippines, Inc. after failing to obtain clearance from the Philippine Competition Commission (PCC).     In a statement on Monday, the diversified conglomerate said it would “no longer proceed” in buying 85.73% shares in Holcim after its agreement lapsed on May 10 without getting the required approval of the PCC.     With the discontinuation of the proposed acquisition, SMC said the supposed tender offer of Holcim shares held by minority shareholders is likewise withdrawn.     SMC, through First Stronghold Cement Industries, Inc. (FSCII) — a unit of SMC subsidiary San Miguel Equity Investments, Inc. — was buying 5.53 billion common shares in Holcim, the local arm of Switzerland-based LafargeHolcim Ltd.     The deal was made on May 10, 2019 with the purpose of expanding SMC’s foothold in the country’s cement industry.     As part of the transaction, FSCII was supposed to do a tender offer of shares in Holcim held by minority investors equivalent to 14.27% of its total issued and outstanding capital stock.     While the Department of Trade and Industry earlier said the buyout might result in lower prices of locally produced cement, the PCC said it might substantially lessen competition in the grey cement market in Luzon.     It flagged that FSCII is under SMC, and SMC is under Top Frontier Investment Holdings, Inc., which has two cement plants set to open in the next two years: Northern Cement Corp. and Oro Cemento Industries Corp.     The PCC likewise noted that SMC President and Chief Operating Officer Ramon S. Ang is the majority owner and chairman of Eagle Cement Corp.     “Sellers, distributors, and hardware owners in the relevant markets viewed Eagle Cement and Northern Cement as ‘sister companies’ and part of the Top Frontier group,” the competition watchdog said in January.

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Aboitiz allots P1.82 B for COVID-19 mitigation efforts

May 12, 2020

THE Aboitiz Group has committed a total of P1.82 billion for COVID-19-related efforts including P388 million in donations for medical frontliners and relief goods for poor families.     The amount includes the P220-million donation from the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation (the Aboitiz family-based foundation) and personal donations in Cebu.     The Aboitiz group also donated P100-million donation to Project Ugnayan led by the Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation with other major business groups for the distribution of crockery vouchers to urban poor families in Greater Metro Manila.     The group also donated personal protection equipment, thermal scanners, alcohol, folding beds, tents and food packs worth P67.56 million consisting of P50.7 million from Aboitiz Foundation, P4.5 million from Aboitiz business units, P2 million from KINDer, P176,000 from employees for Davao frontliners, and P10.2 million from offline donations via Unionbank transfers.     For its workers, the Aboitiz group has allotted P900 million in financial assistance while its employess have also chipped in P1.3 million for the group’s “no work, no pay” utility and security personnel in the group’s Taguig and Cebu offices.     Aboitiz Power Corporation has also remitted P536 million to its power plant host local government units under Energy Regulation 1-94.     Last April 6, the Energy Department issued Department Circular 2020-004-00080, dictating that ER 1-94 funds received by host communities of power generation companies may now be used in full for efforts towards managing the effects of COVID-19.     This is, to-date, the contribution of AboitizPower to host communities where its power facilities are located.     “As the COVID-19 situation remains uncertain, the Aboitiz Group will continue to deploy assistance nationwide. Simultaneous with ensuring that our team members’ needs are covered, we also focused on our in-kind and monetary donations to communities that need them the most,” said Sabin M. Aboitiz, Aboitiz Group President and Chief Executive Officer.     Extending its campaign, the Aboitiz Group has also poured in significant aid efforts in Visayas and Mindanao through the initiative of Aboitiz business units (BUs) based there.

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POGOs, service providers must pay taxes: Dominguez

May 12, 2020

FINANCE Secretary Carlos Dominguez III has reiterated that Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGO) and their service providers must pay their 2019 tax liabilities before they are allowed to operate.      Aside from paying the POGO franchise tax, Dominguez said: “both service providers and licensees must also remit to the BIR (Bureau of Internal Revenue) all current 2020 withholding tax liabilities.”     In a Viber message to journalists Thursday, he said these businesses “must also execute an understanding to pay the BIR all their arrears.”     “Once these are complied with, the BIR (Bureau of Internal Revenue) will issue a tax clearance to enable them to operate,” he added.     POGO operations were halted along with most businesses after Metro Manila was placed under community quarantine last March 15, which was expanded to an enhanced community quarantine for mainland Luzon on March 17 to arrest the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).     The government is training its eyes on POGOs and their service providers after some have been found to be operating illegally.     The sector is regulated by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor), which forecasts the government’s gaming-related revenues from this sector to exceed the P75.54 billion collected last year.     BIR Deputy Commissioner Arnel Guballa earlier said there are about 60 POGO licensees to date that are “mostly registered with Pagcor.” (PNA)

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