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Biz Buzz:High tech plates, low tech LTO

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Biz Buzz:High tech plates, low tech LTO

/ 02:59 AM January 09, 2015

MANILA, Philippines–Judging from the growing number of private vehicles sporting new seven-digit black and white license plates, it looks like the Land Transportation Office (LTO) is slowly licking its massive backlog.

After several delays and thousands of irate new car owners adversely affected by government’s “no-plate, no-travel policy,” it’s a relief to see the plates finally being issued by the agency.
Transport officials claim the new license plates have high tech security features like tamper-resistant locks and screws that permanently attach the plates to the vehicle, reflectorized sheets that make them visible from afar, and bar codes.
However, LTO insiders claim that while the new car plates appear high tech, the agency’s computer systems and software are not. LTO was supposed to upgrade its computer systems to handle the shift from six- to seven-digit plates but, for one reason or another, it failed to do so.

In fact, our sources say the agency has gone back to the dark ages by manually recording each license plate issued.

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This manual recording poses serious problems since all new plates are apparently not inputted in LTO’s computer database and thus not available online.

More importantly, in case of crimes or accidents, law enforcers or even ordinary citizens cannot immediately determine or verify the registered owner of a particular vehicle since LTO has to manually sift through its voluminous records to check the new plate number in question.

“You want proof?” dares our LTO source. “Try texting your new seven-digit car plate to 2600 and you will get this response: ‘Invalid plate number length format (must be 4 to 6 characters in length) P2.50/text’.” Ouch.–Daxim L. Lucas

Unity pact

If there’s any good that came out of the legal battle between the Benitez family and businessman Eusebio “Yosi” Tanco—at least from the perspective of the beleaguered Benitez clan—it’s that this has prompted feuding third-generation siblings to set aside their own issues and unite toward a common enemy.

The goal is, of course, to fend off a takeover of PWU by Tanco-led STI Holdings, which had declared the family in loan default to the tune of P926 million.

A dozen nieces and nephews of the 100-year-old former Senator Helena Benitez signed an agreement to pool assets and whatever inheritance they will get as legal heirs of the Benitez estate to pay Tanco and prevent the foreclosure on PWU and its basic education arm, Jose Abad Santos Memorial School (JASMS).

The signatories are Conrado Benitez II, Rosary Benitez, Ramona Benitez-McClelland, Lyca Benitez-Brown, Sunny Benitez-Rush, Petty Benitez-Johannot, Willy Benitez, Jet Benitez, Genny Benitez, Amelou Benitez-Reyes, Jose Conrado “Joly” Benitez and Suzie Benitez.

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The family has recently gone to court to prevent Tanco from taking over control of the PWU board of trustees.

PWU media director Lyca Brown told Biz Buzz that the family had sought court intervention so that Tanco would follow a legal procedure for collecting on the loan, the accumulated amount of which the family is still contesting.

Tanco is demanding P928 million but Brown said what the family would be willing to pay would be a “reasonable” amount for the use of the businessman’s money over the last three years.

What Tanco is demanding for, she said, would cripple the school and was not in line with the terms agreed upon before the break-up of this venture.

Nevertheless, Brown said STI’s decision to defer the enforcement of the step-in rights (albeit without withdrawing the declaration of support) was a “positive” step and a “confidence-building” measure.

Despite having gone to court, the Benitez family isn’t ruling out an amicable settlement with Tanco who, however, has said he would not accept a haircut (or downgraded terms).

“For him it’s a haircut. For us, it’s the lifeblood of the school,” Brown said.–Doris C. Dumlao

Realigning VMC shares

Metro Pacific Holdings Inc. (MPHI), a privately held entity under the First Pacific group led by businessman Manuel V. Pangilinan, aka MVP, has sold its 7.67-percent stake in sugar firm Victorias Milling Corp.
Based on a regulatory filing, 196.66 million common shares in the country’s largest sugar firm were sold by MPHI to a local company called First Agri Holdings Corp. at P4.55 per share.

The same shares were purchased by MPHI last year at prices ranging from P4.28 to P4.50 per share, with the help of the First Metro group.
So has the MVP group sold out of VMC for a modest premium after a tug-of-war with the Lucio Tan group?

Not necessarily, industry sources said, as the buyer is most likely affiliated within the same group.

“It looks like they are rationalizing their investments in agriculture, infrastructure, etc.,” said one source privy to VMC affairs.
No comment was available from the Metro Pacific group on whether the buyer is part of the same group.

What’s clear is that the buyer has nothing to do with the Lucio Tan group.–Doris C. Dumlao

Pacquiao’s house, redux

Good news for Pacquiao fans who are often worried about his sometimes messy finances.

A new source has come forward and revealed to Biz Buzz that the boxing champion’s loan burden, thanks to his swanky North Forbes home, has already been reduced substantially.

Having borrowed the bulk of funds for the acquisition of the almost P400-million property in 2011, we’re told that the outstanding amount is now down to around P100 million.

That’s still a huge amount, but it’s substantially less of a burden compared to when he started out.

As such, Pacquiao’s monthly amortization should have come down to about P700,000 at present, according to our source.

The lending bank (to which the property is mortgaged) is China Bank, and not Rizal Commercial Banking Corp, because the latter is headed by Lorenzo Tan who sold Pacquiao the house in question.

Speaking of Tan, word on the street is that the banker was building that now famous house along Cambridge Circle in North Forbes for his parents, and had initially rebuffed offers from Jinky, the boxing champ’s wife (who apparently fell in love with the place).

Jinky had approached Tan no less than five times, according to our source, with the banker giving a “not for sale” reply each time. Whether he really didn’t want to sell the property or was simply playing coy to strengthen his bargaining position is a matter of speculation, but the fact that it was sold at a record price is not.
At this point, what is also confirmed is that the going price for the property is now between P450 milllion and P500 million—far from the P730 million that was initially quoted by news reports.–Daxim L. Lucas

‘Laundryman’

A Chinese-Filipino businessman is having a sort of renaissance in his senior life as a one-man, one-stop money laundering shop  for politicians who are having trouble concealing the massive funds they rake in from the plunder of state funds, specifically their Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA).

With the Bureau of Internal Revenue and Anti-Money Laundering Council ready to stalk, chase and pounce on any suspicious bank transfers or property acquisitions or capital investments, this businessman has become the special  bagsakan of dirty money of politicians in the last two to three years.

Since these politicians, specifically city mayors,  cannot claim to have suddenly  hit a gold mine or win the lottery, they have to rely on the Chinese-Filipino businessman with a good educational and family background and a extra-large portfolio of investments in a wide, variety of business areas to make the deposits or investments for them.
These politicians have become loyal clients  of the  businessman who  gives them better than the best yields offered and who has so far been diligent in giving back their share of the profits.

This businessman has not been bashful in going around town proclaiming that he has nearly $1 billion in cash to deposit, to lend or to use for acquisition of properties.

The problem is this shrewd fellow has never been in the league of Filipino billionaires on Forbes radar even during his heyday.
The latest word is authorities are slowly catching up on this businessman’s money laundering business after it finally dawned on them that this guy might be  rich but not that filthy rich and liquid. It won’t be surprising if some politicians start pulling out their loot before  it turns to ashes.–Gil Cabacungan

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TAGS: Benitez family, Biz Buzz, LTO, Manny Pacquiao, Metro Pacific, PWU, schools, Victorias Milling
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