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Filipino consumers use app to counter record retail fuel prices

MANILA, May 6 (Reuters) – Filipino motorcycle enthusiast John Aldwin Bagabagon drove more easily than many other local motorcyclists and drivers this year as domestic fuel prices soared to record highs.

Bagabagon, 35, and his family are among 200,000 consumers who turn to a local app to get credits for low-priced bulk fuel supplies, saving about 50 percent on their gasoline purchases at the last four months.

“I save a lot, especially now that gas prices are rising weekly,” Bagabagon said.

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The PriceLOCQ app allows users to refuel at a fixed price by converting purchases into digital credits which are then redeemed at SEAOIL Philippines gas stations.

Mark Yu, who launched the PriceLOCQ app in 2020 and whose family owns the independent fuel company SEAOIL, says usage of the app has “skyrocketed” since prices started rising this year, especially after the Russian invasion of Ukraine disrupted world oil markets. read more

Gasoline sales through the app in a single day in mid-March reached 2 million litres, matching volumes for the entire month of February as consumers scrambled to get ahead of price spikes.

Half of PriceLOCQ’s customers are new customers of SEAOIL, which has about 6% of the retail fuel market, said Yu, who is also SEAOIL’s chief financial officer.

PriceLOCQ is the only app of its kind in the region, Yu said. Yu’s personal company, LOCQ, is behind this, partnering with hedge firms to offset risks amid volatile prices.

The Philippines imports more than 90% of its annual fuel needs. Pump prices in the capital Manila, an urban sprawl home to 13 million people, have risen 30% for gasoline and 66% for diesel this year, government data show. Gasoline hit a record high of 81.85 pesos ($1.56) per liter in mid-March 2022.

Early PriceLOCQ users were able in 2020 to purchase up to 600 liters (158.5 gallons) of gasoline and diesel products for future refueling at around 20 pesos per liter. Prices now hover around 79 pesos a liter.

While pricing in a rising market is tempting, consumers are advised not to hoard gasoline and shop as needed, said Bernard Flores, Manila-based financial consultant with Pru Life UK.

Authorities also warned customers to understand the underlying risks of using the app, including the non-transferability of credits and the danger of buying fuel in bulk and seeing prices drop.

“It’s like the stock market where you find the desired price that you prefer and you look at it. Whatever happens, whether prices go up or down, you’re locked in,” Flores said.

However, many motorists remained undaunted, especially those on the roads as part of their job.

“If this app didn’t exist, we’d be in trouble because … we use gasoline every day,” delivery man Johnrey Omolon said.

“It’s a big help. We prepare (for changes) every time gas prices go up.”

($1 = 52.33 Philippine pesos)

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Information from Neil Jerome Morales and Adrian Portugal; Edited by Kanupriya Kapoor and Tom Hogue

Our standards: the Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.