business

AboitizPower sets lower capex this year

April 28, 2020

ABOITIZ Power Corp. has earmarked P33 billion for capital expenditure (capex) for 2020, as its parent company Aboitiz Equity Ventures (AEV) reduced its capital outlay for this year.     During the company’s virtual annual stockholders’ meeting Monday, president and chief executive officer Emmanuel Rubio said AboitizPower initially set its capex at P1 billion this year compared to P35 billion spent in 2019.      AEV reduced its capex this year to P47 billion from P73 billion it previously announced.      Rubio said AboitizPower’s capex for this year is 17 percent higher than 2019’s spending of P35 billion.     “It’s primarily for the construction of GNPower Dinginin facilities. However, we are reviewing the schedule of the rest of our capital expenditures given the current situation,” he added.     Unit 1 of GNPower Dinginin will commence its commercial operation by the first quarter of 2021 while Unit 2 will start by the second quarter next year.     “As far as demand is concerned, the curtailed economic activity brought about by the ECQ (enhanced community quarantine) has resulted in lower demand and consumption, which in turn have affected revenue targets for our business both generation and distribution, even in our retail electricity supply business units,” Rubio said.     He said despite the ECQ, all of its power plants remain online to provide power for hospitals, government institutions, and critical businesses.     “We are operating all power plants within the lockdown communities and keeping operators, team members in our facilities on (a) 14-day cycle,” he added.     Rubio said an uptick in demand is expected due to higher temperatures during the dry season and also the easing of community quarantine measures in other parts of the country.     “We are already working on our business recovery plans to allow us to take advantage of these promising developments and keep us on track with our goals despite the unusual business situation,” Rubio said.     In 2019, AboitizPower’s net income declined by 20 percent to P17.32 billion from P21.71 billion in 2018. (PNA)  

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Fruitas to reopen more stores

April 28, 2020

FRUITAS Holdings, Inc. is opening more stores across the country with the downgraded quarantine in select areas starting May 1.     In a statement Monday, the operator of food and beverage kiosks said it will have more than 60 active stores by the end of this week as it gradually expands store reopening with the shift of some regions to a general community quarantine (GCQ).     It will also ramp up its delivery operations with more than 10 Fruitas brands on-boarded for delivery.     “As we resume operations in more stores, we will continue to adapt our business model and optimize the use of our resources,” Fruitas President and Chief Executive Officer Lester C. Yu said in the statement.     “We are harnessing our model of maximizing sales and profits with limited space, including the utilization of kitchen capacity in our foodparks to fulfill delivery orders. We will also repurpose or upgrade some stores into delivery hubs,” he added.     Fruitas said it had reopened more than 10 stores in the past week and is preparing to reopen at least 10 more this week.     The government is set to downgrade the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in regions that are considered low-risk or medium risk after April 30. The ECQ in Greater Metro Manila and other high-risk regions will remain until May 15.     Areas that will be under GCQ may gradually reopen more establishments and facilitate mass public transportation but still at reduced capacity.     Quarantine measures in the Philippines have been in place since middle of March due to the ongoing spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Since then, Fruitas said it had strengthened its delivery network and partnered with food companies to boost revenue streams.     At present, the company said it was looking at partnerships with more on-demand delivery service providers.     “We are confident that we will emerge stronger and thrive in the post-pandemic environment,” Mr. Yu said.     Fruitas operates brands such as Fruitas Fresh from Babot’s Farm, Buko Loco, Buko ni Fruitas, De Original Jamaican Pattie, Johnn Lemon, Juice Avenue, Black Pearl, Friends Fries, The Mango Farm, 7,107 Halo Halo Islands, Kuxina, Shou La Mien Hand Pulled Noodles and Sabroso Lechon.  

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PHL airlines extend flight suspensions

April 28, 2020

THE country’s major airlines on Friday said all domestic and international flights will remain suspended until May 15, after the government extended the lockdown measures in the National Capital Region and key areas around the country.     In separate statements, Philippine Airlines (PAL), Cebu Pacific and Philippines AirAsia said they will not yet resume passenger flights in view of the extension of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) aimed at containing the coronavirus outbreak.     “All domestic and international Cebu Pacific and Cebgo flights remain cancelled from May 1 to 15, 2020. This is in line with the extension of ECQ imposed over much of Luzon, and implementation of general community quarantine (GCQ) over other provinces. Restrictions are also implemented by local governments across the Philippines,” Cebu Pacific said in its statement.     Should the ECQ be lifted by May 15, PAL said it will have a “gradual and calibrated” resumption of operations starting May 16.     “The complete list of flights to be operated once the ECQ is lifted will be released as soon as possible. In the meantime, our domestic sweeper flights and special flights — arranged by several foreign embassies to ferry stranded nationals out of the country — will continue,” PAL said.     The government has extended the ECQ, which was scheduled to end on April 30, by another two weeks in Metro Manila, Central Luzon (Region III), Calabarzon (Region IV-A — Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, and Quezon), as well as other provinces that continue to face high risk of coronavirus disease infections.     Other areas facing low-risk of the coronavirus will be placed under GCQ starting May 1. Under a GCQ, the government said airports and ports can continue to operate but only for goods.  

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ADB okays $200-M loan to aid PH poor amid Covid-19

April 28, 2020

MANILA -- The Asian Development Bank (ADB) on Monday approved a $200-million loan to support the Philippine government’s effort to provide emergency cash subsidies to vulnerable households amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.      “This global pandemic, of a kind not seen in the last century, has disrupted the livelihoods of millions of Filipinos and could set back the very substantial gains the country has made in reducing poverty in recent years,” ADB Vice-President Ahmed Saeed said in a statement.     Saeed said the new loan supports the government’s emergency subsidy program, which was designed to “help vulnerable households get through this very difficult period and avoid falling into poverty.”     High, sustained economic growth and job creation in recent years and the government’s social assistance programs have combined to reduce the Philippines’ national poverty rate from 23.3 percent in 2015 to 16.6 percent in 2018, translating to 5.9 million Filipinos escaping poverty during this period.     On March 24, Philippine President Rodrigo Roa Duterte signed into law the “Bayanihan to Heal as One Act”—or Republic Act No. 11469—authorizing the government to implement a Covid-19 emergency subsidy program that provides cash payments of P5,000 to P8,000 per month for two months to 18 million low-income families nationwide.      This large program includes 4.3 million poor households covered under the country’s conditional cash transfer (CCT) program known as Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps). ADB has been supporting the 4Ps CCT program since 2010.     ADB’s $200-million loan, under the Social Protection Support Project–Second Additional Financing, will contribute to the $726 million required to provide emergency subsidies to 4Ps households in April and May 2020.     The loan is part of ADB’s comprehensive support to the Philippines to mitigate the damaging effects of the pandemic on the economy and well-being of Filipinos.      It comes after the signing of the USD1.5-billion loan for ADB’s COVID-19 Active Response and Expenditure Support program on April 23.      Two grants approved in March totaling USD8 million are supporting the delivery of food baskets to at least 140,000 vulnerable households in Metro Manila and nearby provinces, purchase of emergency medical supplies, and setting up of a new laboratory that will increase the country’s Covid-19 testing capacity by 3,000 tests a day.     ADB is also preparing an Expanded Social Assistance Project to support the government’s medium-term financing of the 4Ps program. (PR)  

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PH e-payments goal gets boost during ECQ

April 28, 2020

THE Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas’ (BSP) program to encourage people to use digital payment platforms got a boost during the ongoing enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in most parts of the country.      Data from the central bank showed that transactions using PESONet and InstaPay visibly increased compared before the ECQ due to restrictions in movement of people outside of their houses.     “To efficiently and safely make payments, the business entities with obligations to pay during this period used EFT (electronic fund transfer) services, particularly, the PESONet,” a central bank bulletin showed.     InstaPay and PESONet are real-time electronic payment systems under the National Retail Payment System (NRPS).      InstaPay offers consumers a safe, affordable, and real-time electronic payment option for up to P50,000 per transaction without limit in a day.      Charges may apply to the one sending the fund and the one receiving it depending on the financial institutions they will tap.     PESONet, on the other hand, is a batch EFT credit payment scheme for business-to-business as well as people-to-business transactions like credit salaries to employees’ existing accounts.     These e-payment options are posting bigger jumps since the ECQ was declared over mainland Luzon last March 16.     The quarantine was supposed to end last April 12 but was extended to April 30 to ensure the initial gains will not be wasted. The government has yet to announce whether this deadline will be further extended or modified.     Before the ECQ, the value of PESONet transactions amounted to about P6 billion daily but surpassed P6 billion in most days since March 17 until April 2, 2020.     Value of InstaPay transactions are also generally higher during the ECQ although there were days that the daily value was lower than before the quarantine period.     “The PESONet volume did not grow along with the PESONet value due to the adverse economic impact of the ECQ on salaried individuals who are also users of PESONet,” the bulletin said.     As a consequence of increased digital payment transactions, both the cheque payments and automated teller machines (ATMs) withdrawals declined.     Before the ECQ, the value of daily cheque transactions surpassed P150 billion daily but this averaged to about P50 billion to P75 billion from March 17 until April 2.     Minimum daily value of ATM withdrawals from March 2 until March 16 is about P3 billion, with the highest at nearly P9 billion.      The daily transactions from March 17 to April 2 is about P3 billion to P4 billion, with the highest at about P5 billion.     The bulletin said cheques “which are predominantly used by business entities substantially declined in volume and value” because of lower business transactions during the ECQ.     “ATM withdrawals were on downtrend, reflecting the unfavorable effect of work suspension on millions of workers in Luzon and other regions,” it said.     It added people were inclined to use the InstaPay service which is a more convenient and safer means to make low-value payments during the ECQ.     “Instead of heavily relying on ATMs, many depositors resorted to using InstaPay. The behavior-changing quarantine sustained the upward trend in InstaPay volume and value,” it said.      Meanwhile, the bulletin said ATM withdrawals and InstaPay demonstrate similar characteristics.     The volume and value of transactions jump on a pay day and Fridays when people anticipate weekend expenses, it said.     It added that volume and value of transactions are high on weekdays than on weekends “as work, household and other expenses are funded on weekdays while only household expenses are incurred on weekends.”     It also cited the “high volume and value on Mondays when people are accustomed to doing personal and business transactions at the start of the week.”      On Wednesday, BSP Governor Benjamin Diokno urged the public to utilize e-payment platforms during the ECQ to help in the government’s bid to address the rise of coronavirus disease (Covid-19) and lessen transmission.     “Fees for these services have been waived by authorized financial institutions during the ECQ period,” he said.     As of end-March this year, the BSP said there are 45 financial institutions that offer InstaPay service while 56 financial institutions provide PESONet service.     The BSP targets to increase the value of e-payment transactions in the country to account for 30 percent of the total by 2020, while volume is aimed to account for 20 percent of the total. (PNA)

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AboitizPower Team Sow #PositiveEnergy: Brix - Duty & Family

April 27, 2020

Brix Maskariño wakes up before the sun rises. The dormitory begins to bustle with muted activity, but Brix’s early start means that he won’t have to wait in line to shower. He is one of the team members rendering duty in Therma South, Inc.’s (TSI) facility quarantine to keep the lights on amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.  While the country’s frontliners like medical personnel, bankers, janitors, and police continue to brave the pandemic, another group of unsung heroes diligently works as the backbone of the nation by keeping power supply available during these challenging times.  Control Room Engineers (CREs) are the brains of the power plant. They have oversight of the entire plant operations, and like brains picking up signals from the body, CREs also monitor the condition of the plant to ensure that everything is running normally.  To do this, it is imperative for CREs to remain mentally alert and mindful anything can happen anytime, especially now when manpower has been stripped down to a skeletal workforce due to the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).  “By the time I go back to the dorm, I usually fall asleep right away since the task is mentally-demanding. You have to continuously monitor the status of the plant and your mind is always alert and prepared to respond instantly if something goes wrong,” Brix shared.  Plant operations are not the only thing running through Brix’s mind, though. The facility quarantine entails that all personnel rendering duty inside the plant have to stay inside the facility for two weeks.  This is a reverse isolation protocol to prevent bringing in potential infection. This also means that team members have to be away from their families during that time.  TSI has provided dormitories for its team members under quarantine, along with entertainment such as cable TV and full Internet access so that people like Brix are able to stay in touch with their loved ones.  “This is the first time I’ve been away from my family. With all that’s happening, it’s hard to keep your mind at ease. My thoughts keep going back to my family. I found a better appreciation for my family through this experience,” Brix said.  In light of the developments, Brix had to leave his aging parents at home alone while he steps up to keep the electricity flowing.  “The work that we do is important, now more than ever. We need to supply energy so that frontliners can do their work and use the facilities they need. They need electricity in hospitals,” Brix shares.  “I can appreciate my job more now. Usually you see people thanking nurses and frontliners on social media, but sometimes you can see some thanking the power sector. It’s touching that there are some people who appreciate what we do,” Brix added.  Overall, Brix found that his experience with hotel isolation and facility quarantine was alright. It was an experience that allowed him to find a deeper appreciation and sense of duty to his family.  “The sacrifice we’re making is for the sake of our family. We need to support our frontliners so they can do their job to control the pandemic, so that our families are kept safe. This is my mindset now. I’m doing this to keep my family safe and to help my country.”  Wholly-owned AboitizPower subsidiary Therma South, Inc. (TSI) is the owner and operator of the 300-Megawatt Davao Baseload Power Plant located in Binugao, Toril, Davao City. TSI is certified in four ISO standards, namely Quality Management (ISO 9001:2015), Environmental Management (ISO 14001:2015), Occupational Health and Safety Management (OHSAS 45001:2018), and Asset Management System (ISO 55001:2014). Along with Therma Luzon, Inc. and Therma Visayas, Inc., the three primarily compose the Coal Business Unit of AboitizPower.

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