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Biz Buzz: Irate Bangko Sentral chief

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Biz Buzz: Irate Bangko Sentral chief

/ 12:24 AM March 09, 2016

In the aftermath of the biggest money laundering case ever uncovered in  this country’s history, the media has been training its guns on the country’s casino industry. And that’s understandable because suspicion would naturally fall on a sector of the economy that is not covered by the Anti-Money Laundering Act.

But a banking industry source told Biz Buzz yesterday that the preliminary report being prepared by the Anti-Money Laundering Council is set to come down heavily on the banks involved in the funds transfer controversy. And one bank, in particular, is going to bear the brunt of the AMLC’s ire, according to our source.

“There were failures at various levels of the bank to flag the suspicious transaction,” the source said.

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At the same time, another banking source familiar with the issue said Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Amando Tetangco Jr. was angry because the president of the bank involved in the transaction was “less than completely transparent” with him.

As the source related, Tetangco was made aware of the suspected laundering activity in early February and, a few days later, called up the bank president in question. “What’s going on there?” Tetangco asked over the phone. “I hear there are more funds coming in on top of the $81 million.” The bank president replied: “I have no idea about other funds. I’m only aware of the $81 million.” At this point, the source said that Tetangco’s blood starts to boil, and he said: “Don’t tell me you don’t know anything about it. The officials of the foreign bank (the counterparties in the transaction) are right in front of me now.”

Of course, the actual words spoken may have been a little different, but that was the gist of it, said our source.

Now the question is: What will AMLC and the BSP do about it? And will the Bangladesh Bank from which the funds were allegedly stolen ever get its money back? Abangan!  Daxim L. Lucas

The next Cabinet

With the presidential race heating up ahead of the May elections, everyone in the business community is eagerly awaiting who the next Cabinet members—especially the economic managers—will be.

Economist Bernardo Villegas, aka “the Prophet of Boom,” has some people in mind and some of these names he shared when he spoke before the Fund Managers Association of the Philippines (FMAP) in the convention held at the Hennan Resort in Panglao, Bohol, last weekend.

What Villegas had to say matters because we heard that he has the ears of at least one key presidential candidate, Vice President Jejomar Binay. However, the names floated by Villegas at FMAP convention were clearly not just for Binay but for whoever will be the next president. (Yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling allowing another popular contender, Sen. Grace Poe, to run is a game changer, of course).

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So who will Villegas recommend to be the next finance secretary? The economist cited three names during his FMAP talk: former investment banker Roberto Juanchito “Jojo” Dispo, ex-chief of First Metro Investment Corp.; former Citibanker and recent retiree Vaughn Montes, and Anton Periquet, former stockbroker and managing director of Deutsche Regis Securities.

Dispo, now the president of Cirtek Holdings, was a former deputy at the national treasury and could be persuaded to rejoin public service. Montes and Periquet are both graduates of the Industrial Economics Program of the University of Asia and the Pacific (formerly CRC) and thus personally known to Villegas.

There are also Cabinet portfolios that Villegas believes are performing well under the incumbent administration and whose secretaries should be retained by the next president. These are the departments of Public Works and Highways (Rogelio Singson), Education (Armin Luistro) and Tourism (Ramon Jimenez).  Doris Dumlao-Abadilla

Changing of the guard

After a decade and a half, stock market veteran Lorenzo Andres “Randy” Roxas is bowing out as chair and president of Maybank ATR Kim Eng Securities. “End of a 25-year-journey. Time to clean out my room. Will miss this place and my entire team. Looking forward to spending more time with the (family),” Roxas said. He announced his retirement via Instagram and Twitter, posting one final picture of his office in Ayala Tower One.

With Roxas’ early retirement, this stockbrokerage house has also lost its star player in the Futsal Cup.

Roxas will be succeeded by Jojo Aquino, who headed Maybank ATR Securities’ sales for many years and has been frequently honored as “Best Sales Person” during the annual Fund Managers’ Association of the Philippines (FMAP) awards.  Doris Dumlao-Abadilla

GRI in PH

Amsterdam-based Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), a multilateral organization that pioneered corporate sustainability reporting, has picked the Philippines as its new hub in Southeast Asia. Former Finance Secretary Roberto de Ocampo, current chair of the Philippine Veterans Bank and the only one from the region who sits as director at GRI, most likely spearheaded efforts to win such vote of confidence on this country.

Founded in 1997 with support from the United Nations Environment Program, GRI is a nonprofit group that helps governments, businesses and other organizations understand and communicate their impacts on climate change, human rights, corruption and other issues. It has thousands of “reporters” in 90 countries that help it compile “sustainability reports” meant to enable governments and the world’s biggest corporations and private groups to take stock of the repercussions of their actions so that they can make better decisions. Its reports cover a wide range of issues, among them the environment, labor standards, transparency and natural disasters.

Furthermore, the international organization is set to hold its first ever annual meeting outside Amsterdam here. The group will meet in Makati this week, at the end of which GRI chair Christianna Wood is expected to share the group’s game plan. Doris Dumlao-Abadilla

MPIC’s ‘cheap’ hospital

The De Los Santos Medical Center is a small—some would say relatively unknown hospital—in Quezon City whose staffer and patients are known to get stranded on the premises whenever the rains pour over that flood-prone part of E. Rodriguez Sr. Ave. But help is on the way for the health institution in the form of an expansion and redevelopment plan, courtesy of its majority owner, Metro Pacific Investment Corp.

Well, MPIC broke ground on the expansion project for the main hospital building yesterday, Biz Buzz learned. The new building to rise on the property will form the second phase of the hospital’s five-year rehabilitation and development master plan. The first phase was the conversion and redevelopment of a leased building into the hospital’s Medical Arts wing, which was completed a year and a half after MPIC acquired a majority stake in De Los Santos Medical Center.

Of course, MPIC is proud of what it has achieved in the hospital, supposedly having turned it around within six months of gaining control (after its books bled red ink for six successive years, we’re told). In fact, revenues grew an average 24 percent over the last three years, according to MPIC officials.

The hospital’s main selling point is affordability since it offers the cheapest magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) services in Metro Manila (“using equipment similar to St. Luke’s,” an official says) and the most affordable kidney transplant services (“even lower than that of the National Kidney and Transplant Institute,” he adds).

By next year, the hospital wants to offer the most affordable open heart surgery services, and in three years, the most affordable cancer care.

Now, if only they could fix the perennial flooding problem in front of the hospital.  Daxim L. Lucas

E-mail us at bizbuzz@inquirer.com.ph. Get business alerts and a preview of Biz Buzz the evening before it comes out. Text ON INQ BUSINESS to 4467 (P2.50/alert).

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TAGS: AMLC, Anti-Money Laundering Act, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, Bank, BSP, Governor Amando Tetangco Jr., transaction, transparency
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