Disrupting the Petroleum Industry

Looking back to the 1970s to 90s, the Philippine gasoline and petroleum products sector was tightly

held by three large companies— Royal Dutch Shell, a British- Dutch multinational oil and gas company, one of the largest in the world, Caltex, the Asia Pacific brand of US oil giant Chevron, and Petron, which by that time was 40% owned by Saudi Arabia’s Saudi Aramco and is part of the San Miguel empire today.

With a concentration of petroleum product supply on urban centers, and other regions left undersupplied and underinvested by the top three, as well as due to a lack of price and service quality competition, the Philippine government made the decision to open the market to new players and eventually released the Oil Deregulation Law of 1998 which allowed new companies to participate in the industry.

Young entrepreneur Dennis Uy from Davao City saw a striking opportunity to challenge and disrupt the triumvirate of the big oil players—an industry many thought would be impenetrable.

In hindsight, Phoenix Petroleum, as its name suggests, rose strongly from its early beginnings by focusing on underserved markets and emphasizing its domestic ownership. Over time, the company transformed into the largest independent in the country with the additional success of having become the first oil company to be listed on the Philippine Stock Exchange following the industry’s deregulation.

Phoenix Petroleum has built a reputation as a homegrown, efficient, and service-friendly brand that is acknowledged by its customers as being “a Filipino company for the Filipinos,” rather than an international or domestic conglomerate with little identification potential and customer connectivity.

The rise of Phoenix Petroleum and other independents is changing the game of the domestic petroleum market in the Philippines, with the share of the top three shrinking from dominance to 55% in just two decades.

Phoenix Petroleum’s inspiring performance has paved the way for other local players to up their game, and it will be exciting times as the industry faces disruption not only from within, but also from changing technologies and consumer needs.

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