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Biz Buzz: Will it be Ayala or SM?


04:04 AM July 17th, 2013

By: the staff, July 17th, 2013 04:04 AM

An anticipated annual shareholders’ meeting of the Ortigas clan’s flagship holding firm, OCLP Holdings, may push through Friday in an event that could tip the balance of power within the company’s board in favor of Zobel-led Ayala Land Inc. over rival SM Investments, led by the country’s richest man Henry Sy.

But SM’s allies within OCLP Holdings are still moving to postpone the meeting, possibly for the third time this year, through the Court of Appeals. The plan remains the same: to force the Ayala-backed faction to enter into arbitration proceedings to settle their disputes as contained in OCLP Holdings shareholders’ agreement.

Both Ayala Land and SM, through their Ortigas allies known as the Rafael Ortigas group and the Fernando Ortigas group, respectively, have been at a stalemate since last year as neither side has a majority stake.

But highly placed sources told Biz Buzz that Rafael’s group might have finally enlisted the backing of the influential Roman Catholic Church, the single-biggest non-Ortigas shareholder with a 9-percent stake.

This makes a scenario for Ayala Land to gain “management control”—without necessarily buying out the shareholders—very possible.

SM, on the other hand, had proposed to buy out the shareholdings of Fernando’s side and those of Rafael’s side, whose group initially agreed before backing out of the deal.

OCLP Holdings still owns an attractive landbank of 55 hectares in Metro Manila, including the iconic Greenhills Shopping Center and parts of the Ortigas business district, hence, Ayala Land and SM’s keen interest.

Right now, Fernando’s group is keen on pursuing an initial public offering, possibly by March 2014, which observers pointed out would be a more amicable outcome for both Ortigas factions.

However, relations between the two remain delicate and tense and it appears that an amicable solution will remain elusive as ever.—Miguel R. Camus

K-Water deadlock

Contrary to “misinformation” that it was no longer keen on taking over the 218-megawatt hydropower Angat plant that it won from a bidding years ago, Korea Water Resources Corp. (K-Water) is still very much keen on clearing the stumbling blocks and closing the purchase. Neither is it true that K-Water is haggling for a discount on the purchase price.

“Somebody is trying to scuttle the deal,” a source from K-Water said, noting that since the Supreme Court has upheld the validity of the sale of the plant to the Korean firm, talks are ongoing with the government to resolve the remaining issues.

The Koreans actually want the bidding terms retained but an auxillary plant of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System will eat up the water rights originally committed for its use when the power plant was bid out in 2010. Under the original bidding terms, 58 cubic meter per second (cms) will be made available for power generation but the MWSS wants 15 cms for its 28-MW auxillary power plant.

To break the deadlock, K-Water has proposed to the government two alternatives to make it “whole:” For the MWSS to compensate K-Water for the value of the 15 cms, which is estimated at $8 million a year for the next 20 years or K-Water to be allowed to operate the 28-MW auxillary plant instead of bidding it out to another investor and the Korean firm, in turn, will give the proceeds from generation of up to 9 cms or about $4.2 million a year and any additional water that MWSS is able to course through the Angat dam later.

If the MWSS has other alternatives to compensate for eating up on its water rights, the K-Water source said the Koreans were willing to listen.

Some say that those who want K-Water out of the picture are concerned that K-Water will just flip to either the Metro Pacific or San Miguel groups. But while the Koreans are indeed in talks with these groups on a strategic partnership, K-Water is not walking away from the project.—Doris C. Dumlao

‘Silent’ NCIP under fire

The National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) is the government agency tasked to look after the welfare of the country’s “katutubo” tribes, especially where these peoples’ lives are affected by external factors like mining.

If you listen to some concerned groups, however, the NCIP has been found wanting in carrying out several of its key mandates. In fact, a group of indigenous peoples’ organizations recently went all they way up to the United Nations to protest what they believed was the disservice being done to them by this government agency.

These groups prepared a statement that was read by Fr. Rex Reyes Jr. during the 12th session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues last May 30 in New York. Fr. Reyes is associated with the Stop the Killing of Indigenous Peoples Network in the Philippines and secretary general of the National Council of Churches of the Philippines.

In his speech, the prelate hit the NCIP for being “silent on the violation of human rights of indigenous peoples brought about by massive resource extraction.”

The NCIP, he said, also “remains silent on a Philippine mining bill that places the interest of indigenous people at the back seat in the name of foreign investment and development.

“It remains silent on the extrajudicial killings of indigenous peoples, 35 cases of which are documented under the current president. It remains silent on the harassment of indigenous peoples human rights workers like Jude Baggo, conducted by the state’s security forces,” he added. “It remains silent on the state’s anti-insurgency policy that undermines human rights and civil liberties.”

Worse, Fr. Reyes related that during a dialogue between an indigenous group and the head of the NCIP, “the NCIP head told her audience that if they had no land titles, they had nothing to talk about.”

One solution? Fr. Reyes wants the government to put the NCIP under the scrutiny of an independent body that will closely monitor its effectiveness in executing its mandate.

There have been reports that NCIP’s chair, Brigida Zenaida Pawid, has been reappointed by Malacañang to the agency, but it remains unclear whether as chair or just one of the commissioners. Given the delicate relations between the country’s indigenous peoples and the mining industry, this issue bears watching closely.—Daxim L. Lucas

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