MANILA — The Philippines is known for its so-called “sachet economy.” In a country where 17.6 million people live in poverty, there is a fondness, oftentimes a necessity, for products sold in “tingi” or small portions instead of bulk.
From cooking oil to cigarettes, sari-sari stores sell their own version of “tingi.” But for the longest time, the popular cooking fuel that is liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), which retails at P650 to over P700, has remained out of reach to many.
A recent Asian Development Bank report said around 55 million Filipinos do not have access to clean cooking. The report said that globally, "household air pollution from solid fuel use results in more than a million premature deaths each year."
Among the solutions highlighted by the report are the replacement of traditional cooking fuels with modern fuels like LPG, kerosene and electricity, as well as the use of renewable sources for clean cooking, including biogas, solar, and bioethanol.
Clean-cooking advocate Pascal Resources Energy Inc. (PREI) said a large number of the Filipino population still use wood, charcoal and other traditional fuels for their cooking. Besides being detrimental to health, such materials pose environmental and safety risks. Some resort to buying illegally refilled butane canisters for their portable stoves.
“You can imagine the huge safety risk involved with these illegal refills,” PREI assistant vice president Matthew Par told ABS-CBN.
“The Department of Energy has been vigilantly warning people against using refilled butane canisters. But, they are still being bought and sold because they're cheaper.”
PREI is offering its Gaz Lite product, a 330-gram refillable canister of LPG, to address this gap in the market. It claims to be the only refillable LPG canister in the world. It carries an IPO Utility Model.
“You can exchange your empty canisters for a new refilled one in a palengke, a sari-sari store and soon, even groceries and hardware stores,” said Par.
What started in 2018 as a corporate social responsibility activity for LPG company PR Gaz, Gaz Lite is now projecting P220 million in revenues for 2020. Its affordability, at P145 each including deposit or P65 for each refill, makes it a viable alternative to illegally refilled butane canisters or charcoal and wood. Each canister lasts for 3 to 5 days
Since it is paired with a portable stove, it has also become an alternative for butane canisters used in camping or in Korean barbecue restaurants.
Recently, it also launched a slightly smaller version (at 230 grams) called Gaz Lite Mate in Cebu, sold for P95 with deposit and P45 for each refill.
PREI said it considers Visayas as a priority market because its regions are known for having the highest usage of traditional fuels like kerosene, wood and charcoal “which not only deplete natural resources but also cause potential health risks.”