Wisarn Chawalitanon, the president and chief executive of PTT Philippines Corp., marvels at the Filipinos’ kindness.
“What impressed me about the Philippines is the hospitality of Filipinos. It is very heart-warming seeing everybody offering help and minding others,” the 50-year-old Thai executive, who has been leading the oil company’s Philippine operations for three years now, shares with Manila Standard Today.
Chawalitanon was first assigned to the country as operations and logistics director for PTT Philippines in 2008. In October 2010, he was designated as president and chief executive by PTT Philippines’ parent firm, Thailand’s PTT Public Company Limited.
He is a concurrent member of the board of directors of PTT Philippines Corp. and PTT Philippines Trading Corp. as well as chairman of the PTT Philippines Foundation Inc. He also serves as a member of the board of trustees of the Philippine Institute of Petroleum.
“In the Philippines, people here mostly have a sense of humor. They are service-oriented, have very active social life and have very good command of English,” says Chawalitanon, although he says Filipinos need more focus at work.
“Sometimes, there are Filipinos who lose their focus at work, especially when they have so many things to attend to,” he says.
He says while the Filipino culture has similarity in many ways with Thailand, “our staff would always say that Thais are more serious of their work habit.”
Chawalitanon, who is married with two daughters, is in charge of expanding PTT’s retail presence in the Philippines. He says during his three-year stay here, he found the Filipino values and love for family endearing.
“You cannot see anywhere in the world the way Filipinos value their family and how they help each other,” he says.
Chawalitanon, a golf enthusiast, is also excited about the beautiful golf courses that should not fail to attract tourists. “And, of course, golf. There are so many golf courses here that are really world- class. Golf is also my passion, that’s why there are weekends that I spend time playing golf with my friends,” he says.
A typical PTT
Chawalitanon earned his Mechanical Engineering degree from Konkaen University in Konkaen, Thailand and a Master’s degree in Public Administration and Master’s in Public and Private Management Program from the National Institute and Development Administration in 2007.
Before moving to the Philippines, Chawalitanon was stationed in Vietnam as managing director of Vietnam LPG, a joint venture between PTT and Vietnam Gas for nine years.
“As soon as my tour of duty ended, I was assigned back to PTT head office in Thailand for four years, before moving to PTT Philippines,” he says.
Chawalitanon has been working with PTT for the past 28 years. The PTT executive says he is very hands-on and his management style involves pushing PTT employees to go the extra mile. Chawalitanon handles a lean manpower staff of 120 personnel in the Philippines.
“I always challenge my team to always go an extra mile in everything they do because an extra effort, I believe, would bring all of us to success. But I’m also open to discussion. I listen to my staff and, in fact, I also learn from them,” he says.
“I always get a chance to personally talk with everyone at almost all levels. We are like a one happy family,” he adds.
Chawalitanon says to further motivate his staff, PTT provides perks and other benefits like a trip to Thailand especially when they achieve their targets.
“Everybody, I should say, are well-compensated because we believe that they can be more productive for as long as their economic needs are met,” he says.
Chawalitanon says like any ordinary business, starting a business in a foreign company carries its own challenges.
“But in a foreign country, we have to understand the different cultures and lifestyles. In Vietnam, for example, they have their own character. People there are working hard because they passed through the long and worst moment of war. They know how starving looks like that’s why they work hard to have a better life. The problem is language barrier,” he says.
Chawalitanon says he had to learn the Vietnamese language while he worked there. In the Philippines, he says his job is made easier by the Filipinos’ good values, sense of humor and hospitality.
He says traffic is bad in Metro Manila, similar to Bangkok but he is getting used to it. He believes the Philippines has a strong potential for further growth, given its rich natural resources and highly-skilled work force, if it can only make the investment climate more investor friendly.
“People have great skills and, as I said, are very good in English. But it needs more investments, especially come 2015 when AEC [Asian Economic Community] will take effect,” he says.
“But to attract more investors, the government should simplify the process of doing business here. Perhaps, a one-stop-shop service for investors will help this country become more competitive,” Chawalitanon says.
He says the existing deregulated oil industry, which allowed the entry of other oil players such as PTT, helped not only in terms of energy security but also in providing competitive fuel prices, giving consumers wider options.
“The objective for the deregulation I think has been achieved by the government,” he says.
Chawalitanon says PTT remains bullish of its operations in the Philippines and is expanding its retail operations in the next few years.
“We are actually in the process of expansion. In fact, our target is to open around 15 new service stations annually. Right now, we have 65 stations all over the country. Initially, our target is to achieve 150 stations,” he says.
“We allocated P1.5-billion budget for this program. We are expanding in Luzon and Cebu, where we have storage facilities,” he says.
PTT is the market leader in both retail and commercial sales in Thailand with subsidiaries operating in various Asean geographies. These include upstream and downstream businesses as well as petrochemical ventures.
PTT manages five refineries in Thailand with a production capacity of one million barrels a day.
Apart from the Philippines, PTT’s Asean subsidiaries have offices and facilities in Singapore, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Indonesia and Myanmar.