MANILA - Beijing based e-cigarette company RELX is investing in the country with the goal of setting up its global customer services through a business process outsourcing (BPO) firm in Manila.
Di Yang, RELX Director for Southeast Asia Business, said a deal with a Philippines-based BPO is imminent, and plans for setting up offices in the country are in the works.
He also said production in the Philippines is a possibility.
“It is still [in] an early stage. We want better insight, and also that is something for regulators to decide,” Yang said in a press conference in Makati City Friday.
Yang, however, declined to reveal how much RELX will be investing in the Philippines.
“That will require some calculations. We believe once the market is proved, we will definitely (reveal it).”
Once they are up and running, RELX hopes to have its Philippine operations run by staff that is about 70 percent to 80 percent Filipino. RELX’s most recent investments include $1.5 million for a research and development laboratory in China.
RELX has distributor partnerships with two local chains, Lighters Galore and Fuma. It is hoping to ink new deals with Philippine franchise holders of convenience store chains 7-Eleven and Family Mart soon.
Yang said they welcome opportunities to help the Philippine government adopt best practices to help develop the industry. However, they believe certain proposals would be detrimental.
“Some of the bills making their way through Congress even push for highly unloved taxations between different types of nicotine liquids that create highly unloved playing fields not conducive for the industry at best, and at worst may prove unenforceable due to the development of new hybrid e-liquids," he said.
This was in reference to proposed measures raising taxes on vaping products, beer and liquor.
There are more than 1 billion smokers in the world today, and studies say there will be more than a billion smokers by 2025.
"Vape as a product category has the potential to switch smokers from burning traditional cigarettes, which generate tar and a host of harmful chemicals, to a much better alternative,” Yang said.
He said he is against a total ban on multiple flavors, which was proposed by the Department of Health (DOH). Along with groups Youth for Sin Tax and Action for Economic Reforms, the DOH wants to limit e-liquids to just tobacco and mint flavors, arguing that fruit and candy flavors play a key role in getting young people into vaping.
Yang, however, said they are also against youth vaping. As a compromise, he suggested RELX and other players in the vaping industry collaborate with the government to figure out the flavors that may be allowed.
Vaping's obstacles: US ban, diseases, deaths
Despite vaping being a trend among millenials, more than 500 people have been sickened in an outbreak of vaping-related illness in the United States, health authorities had said.
The states of New York and Michigan have also banned flavored e-cigarettes.
The World Health Organization earlier said vaping is "undoubtedly harmful."
Yang explained the situation in the US can be attributed to street-sold vaping products, not large manufacturers such as RELX.
“What’s going on in the US, that can be regulated. That is why we welcome regulation,” he said.
Yang is also against banning the advertising of vaping.
“A total ad ban is stopping us from convincing smokers to convert to e-cigarette, which we believe is the better solution. We should work with the government on this."
RELX was founded in Beijing in January 2018 by its CEO, Kate Wang.
The firm claims to be the top-selling closed system e-cigarette in China, and the top e-cigarette brand in Asia.