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Biz Buzz: Blocking SM Aura

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Biz Buzz: Blocking SM Aura

/ 02:48 AM May 20, 2013

Vehicular traffic around Bonifacio Global City in Taguig—particularly around SM Aura—has been particularly heavy in recent days since the opening of the country’s newest shopping mall.

Apart from the sudden surge of shoppers that usually accompanied the opening of any SM mall, the situation seems to have been aggravated by the availability of only one access road to the high-end shopping and office complex.

Why? Well, according to a recently uploaded YouTube video, the blame lies squarely on the Bases Conversion and Development Authority, which blocked (not just in figurative terms, but rather physically) the completion of the McKinley Parkway access road that would have improved vehicular traffic flow in the area.

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To recall, the BCDA had conveyed the land on which SM Aura stands to the Taguig City government as settlement, on condition that it be used for the purposes of building a civic center. The Taguig LGU, however, had a rather entrepreneurial interpretation of this proviso and held a public bidding for the land’s development into a civic center (with a commercial component), which SM promptly won—to the chagrin of BCDA (and the anchor real estate developer of BGC, we hear).

Anyway, the video showed BCDA chief Arnel Casanova arriving at the SM Aura construction site last May 6 with a retinue of security personnel armed with assault rifles and donning bulletproof jackets. It also showed a barong tagalog-clad BCDA security staffer warning SM personnel, ominously hinting that physical violence would follow should the latter continue with their construction of a sidewalk.

In response, SM called officials from the Taguig LGU whose people then arrived to confirm that the mall developer had the necessary permits from City Hall.

All this was to no avail, of course. BCDA security staff ordered two trucks to block what would have been the access road and their drivers then left (taking the keys, of course). The trucks—with their wheels taken off later by BCDA personnel—are still at the site, according to the video. The still unpaved road was then barricaded with concrete barriers and a makeshift steel fence.

The end result is, predictably, heavy vehicular traffic around the glittering new SM Aura.

This is not the first time that BCDA and SM are squaring off over a parcel of land in BGC. A few months ago, both entities also had a run-in when SM obtained an injunction from the Supreme Court to stop BCDA from bidding out the Bonifacio South property, leaving the state-run agency disappointed and somewhat embarrassed.

Somehow, we don’t think we’ve heard the last of this issue.—Daxim L. Lucas

P-Noy in Myanmar

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After President Aquino’s World Economic Forum debut in Davos, Switzerland, last January, the country’s chief executive is flying to Myanmar next month for the World Economic Forum on East Asia 2013. The regional WEF summit—the same one that the Philippines agreed to host in 2014—will be held in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar, from June 5 to 7.

A Palace source said P-Noy would not stay for the entire three-day forum but would be there briefly—as in, only for a day—to participate in either the opening or closing ceremonies. “It’s part of what happens if you’re going to be the host,” one Malacañang source said.

Unlike in Davos, P-Noy will not speak in any of the closed-door, private fora but will most likely be there to observe and prepare for his WEF hosting next year.

The theme for WEF’s East Asia Summit in Myanmar, the home of democracy advocate and Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi (the star of last year’s WEF East Asia Summit hosted by Thailand), is “Courageous Transformation for Inclusion and Integration” and will focus on three pillars: “Inspiring inclusive transformation, realizing regional integration and scaling regional solutions for global resilience.—Doris C. Dumlao

No stumbling block

With the Manuel V. Pangilinan group’s impending takeover of the country’s oldest business paper BusinessWorld, some quarters are now raising supposed restrictions in the Constitution against one group having interests in broadcast, print and radio media. The same criticisms were raised by naysayers when MVP’s group was just about to take over then ABC-5, which became TV-5.

These restrictions, as some say, are enshrined in the law of the land to ensure that no single private group ever gets too much influence. The MVP group, through the PLDT Beneficial Trust Fund’s unit Mediaquest Holdings, already owns majority stakes in TV5 and radio network Nation Broadcasting Corp. It also has minority stakes in Philippine Star and the Philippine Daily Inquirer (10 percent).

As for the alleged constitutional restrictions, TV5’s outgoing CEO Ray C. Espinosa said this was a mere “urban legend.” Espinosa, a bar topnotcher and head of PLDT’s regulatory affairs division, said he was not aware of any such restriction in the Constitution. “I don’t know of any law on that. Where did we get that anyway? Even the UP Law Center says there’s none,” he said. Needless to say, if anyone eventually tries to block the BusinessWorld takeover, this is one legal battle that Espinosa is confident he can win.—Paolo Montecillo

Got nails?

As Philippine-Taiwan relations turned sour, ever wonder what this means for the average Filipino consumer?

Apparently, it is little known that the trade of many products from construction nails to food processing machines (hint: fast food lumpiang Shanghai) as well as vegetables and herbs like garlic is controlled by Taiwanese businessmen and their partners (some say “dummies”). Add to that capital equipment, packaging materials, plastic raw materials, computers and cell-phone accessories, IT software, computer games, electric appliances, and even some franchise chains, according to a number of business leaders. Services such as cargo shipping and airline transport are also in the mix.

Our sources say Taiwanese businessmen are afraid they may be ordered by their government to pack up and leave if this row worsens. Of course, it has been pointed out that Taipei’s influence in Manila’s business sector has ebbed since the 1990s while that of mainland China has grown. It has also been said that if Taipei withholds its products and services, those from other countries can fill the gap, though with some delay.

Exporters to Taipei of processed food and other items are less certain, however, of finding alternatives.

What is clear is that both sides will feel economic “shocks.”

The question now seems to be whether we would rather go without nails and some electronics for a while or bend over backwards.—Riza T. Olchondra

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TAGS: Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA), Benigno Aquino III, Bonifacio Global City, Business, businessworld, Diplomacy, Manuel V. Pangilinan, media, Myanmar, Philippines-Taiwan row, SM Aura, Trade, vehicular traffic, World Economic Forum on East Asia 2013
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