When Volkswagen distributor Automobile Central Enterprise announced that it won't be selling the German carmaker's gasoline-powered vehicles because of the presence of manganese in some local petrol fuels, ACE singled out the independent petroleum companies as the main users of the additive to boost their fuels' octane rating.
Apparently, this is because the smaller oil companies import fully refined fuels that only have an octane rating of 92, while the major players in the industry like Caltex, Petron and Shell have local oil refineries that produce fuels of varying octane ratings.
"We even operate at a loss because we still have to provide 91-octane fuels (usually for older car models)," Independent Philippine Petroleum Companies Association chairman Fernando Martinez told TopGear.com.ph. "So we're importing 92-octane fuels but have to sell them as 91-octane."
This is where manganese as an additive comes in to boost the 92-octane rating to 95- or even 97-octane.
Martinez also clarified that instead of focusing on manganese as a harmful element, more attention has to be paid on the continued use of benzene, a chemical compound that is also used to increase octane rating.
According to the United States' Environmental Protection Agency, benzene is classified as a "known human carcinogen for all routes of exposure," which means it increases the risk of cancer.
"And that's what we've been pushing for a very long time--to eliminate the use of benzene in fuels," shared Martinez. "Not to brag about it but independent oil players have always been the first to push for advancements in the quality of local fuels. We were the first to push for the use of bioethanol fuels, and we were the first to push for Euro IV fuels."