Biz Buzz: Changing of the guard
A leadership change is coming to Petron Corp. this week as the country’s biggest petroleum refiner and distributor will soon get a new president—a move expected to be confirmed by its board of directors in a meeting scheduled Tuesday, Feb. 19.
According to our sources, Petron president Eric Recto has chosen to yield his current executive position to allow him to concentrate on his personal project, Philippine Bank of Communications.
For some time now, Recto has had to divide his day between the Petron office at the San Miguel headquarters in the Ortigas Center, where he spends his mornings, then head to PBCom in Makati City by mid-afternoon.
But with the exit of his uncle, Bobby Ongpin from the bank, Eric has decided to devote more time to PBCom, where he sits as chair. (He has big plans for the bank, he says, but has so far kept his cards close to his chest.)
San Miguel’s head honcho, Ramon Ang, is not about to let him off the hook that easily, though. Recto is expected to be appointed vice chair of Petron (a newly created post) at the board meeting. Of course, apart from his role in Petron, Recto also does “other work” for the group, especially on the deal-making front.
Set to replace Recto as Petron president is San Miguel group veteran Lubin Nepomuceno, who has, for some time now, served as the petroleum firm’s chief operating officer of sorts. The La Salle-educated Nepomuceno knows Petron inside out as he had previously headed its refinery operations. He also chairs San Miguel Shipping and Lighterage Corp.
Needless to say, exciting times are in store for the company once its refinery expansion is completed next year. And already, the stock market is starting to pay attention to the stock.—Daxim L. Lucas
Turmoil in Ayala Alabang
A legal battle looms over a P46-million barangay community center planned inside the plush Ayala Alabang Village as a group of opposing homeowners uncovered documents suggesting that the controversial project did not meet the requirements not just of the property developer Ayala Land Inc. and the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board (HLURB) but of the Commission on Audit (COA) as well.
A Jan. 29, 2013 letter, signed by COA state auditor Merla Bagsit, said that pursuing the construction of the center “would have no legal basis,” noting it was already denied by COA’s general counsel. A more recent letter, dated Feb. 8 and signed by COA officer-in-charge Carmelita Antasuda, advised Bagsit’s audit group to reiterate the stance that “the proposed construction of a barangay hall is not allowed in the area prohibited by law.”
Augie Palisoc, an executive of the Metro Pacific group handling the hospital businesses, is one of the 600 homeowners battling the project proponents, barangay chair Alfred Xerez-Burgos and the Ayala Alabang Village Association (AAVA). He said his group, called Homeowners Opposing Barangay Structure (HOBS), was not just worried about their parks, bird sanctuary and what could be the loss of privacy if a barangay hall (Barangay Ayala Alabang includes other areas outside the gated village) were to rise in what was intended to be an open space. “The main issue is the lack of transparency of the barangay and AAVA, which should be representing the interests of the village. They are trying to railroad this project,” Palisoc told Biz Buzz.
Palisoc said the city council had indeed approved the structure under the presumption of regularity but argued that the document that Xerez-Burgos and AAVA were bragging about—a March 2012 “letter of no objection” from ALI—was a “misrepresentation.” ALI had indeed said it would not object to the project provided the requirements were met, including approval from HLURB and COA, proof of consent from majority of the residents (the village has about 4,500 homeowners) and holding of three public hearings with the immediately affected residents. ALI also required a balloting procedure, which never took place, he said.
To top it all, Palisoc said the “letter of no objection” from ALI was with respect to another project—referring to a simple extension of barangay offices to the left of AAVA offices whereas the disputed project would be a huge structure on the right side of these offices. Biz Buzz obtained a Jan. 30, 2013, letter from ALI saying “while we at Ayala Land were aware that there was a proposal to expand the Community Center, we were not informed as to the changes made to the development plans previously sent to us for approval last March 2012 and what we have on file is not the updated version.” The ALI letter also reiterated that the requirements must be fulfilled before it could release its “official approval.”
Meanwhile, another letter from HLURB dated Feb. 5 said it would give due course to the project provided certain conditions were met, such as necessary permits and clearances from other government agencies concerned.
Despite the unresolved issues, the proponents broke ground for the project last Feb. 14, during which Xerez-Burgos was quoted as saying that all the necessary documents were in order. But having done its own research, HOBS is preparing for a protracted battle.—Doris C. Dumlao
Wheels for high-rollers
His initials are RR, but ports mogul Ricky Razon is not getting a Rolls Royce as the showpiece carriage of his limousine service for his soon-to-open Solaire Resorts and Casino.
While the Rolls Royce is the limo of choice in Las Vegas and Macau casinos, Razon has picked the Bentley flagship model, the Mulsanne, as its lead car in a fleet of 10 Mercedes Benz S-class to ferry high-rollers and VIPs to his gaming and entertainment oasis at the Pilipino Entertainment City in Parañaque.
The billionaire is apparently not a fan of the Rolls Royce’s vulgar opulence. “He found the Rolls too showy. He would have picked a Maybach but Mercedes stopped making it starting this year so he picked the next best thing, a Bentley,” a buzzard told us.
Razon also went against the grain in choosing what paintings to adorn Solaire’s walls. Our source told us Razon has amassed a horde of paintings by Filipino artists led by national artist Ben Cabrera over the last few months. Our buzzard reckoned that Razon’s “panic buying” helped in no small way the local arts community, which has been enjoying a renaissance in prices and exhibits. From the several hundreds of paintings bought by Razon, only 20 are made by foreign artists like Phil Starke and Matthew James as the billionaire wants his resort to retain a distinctly Filipino charm.—Gil Cabacungan
To the rescue
Officials from the PPP Center did not reply to us when we sought their comments on their recent activities (see Biz Buzz on Feb. 11, 2012), but thankfully for them, the people over at the MVP group have taken up the cudgels for the government agency.
A spokesperson from the group that is putting up the Harbor Link project (where the Public-Private Partnership or PPP Center is seen giving interviews to the media last week) pointed out to Biz Buzz that the project was actually part of the concession of Metro North Tollways Corp. and was not an unsolicited project.
The MVP group spokesperson added that a memorandum of understanding was needed by both proponents of the elevated NLEx-SLEx connector road project as well as a supplemental toll operation agreement for the third phase of the Skyway project to proceed.
“Why are the proponents of Skyway-3 afraid of signing an MOU witnessed by both DPWH and DOTC?” said the spokesperson, throwing down the gauntlet at the San Miguel group.
Finally, the spokesperson pointed out that the PPP official in question has not taken the place of the official from the National Economic and Development Authority, as a Neda official was also present at the board meeting of the Toll Regulatory Board last week.
So there. It’s good to know some private sector firms still care to explain things on behalf of PPP officials.—Daxim L. Lucas
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