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Biz Buzz: Wanted: ‘DICT head’

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Biz Buzz: Wanted: ‘DICT head’

/ 12:12 AM May 27, 2016

It could have come sooner, but President Aquino’s signing of a law creating the Department of Information and Communications Technology was still a very much welcome move.

As the primary agency tasked with developing a national ICT framework, crucial in the current digital era, industry observers also hoped this would help hasten the improvement of Internet services and bring down costs.

ICT experts we’ve spoken to pointed out that the next crucial step was to find the right person to head the DICT.

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Names have been floated around, and those experts we’ve spoken to were split on the qualifications required. Should it be a technical whiz or a savvy deal-maker well versed in the political game? The DICT will be coordinating with government offices so politics—and the skills to navigate this area—would surely come into play.

It appeared that former Microsoft Philippines national technology officer Dondi Mapa would have been a good pick for the DICT. Too bad he was recently named deputy commissioner of the National Privacy Commission.

There’s also Budget and Management Undersecretary and chief information officer Richard Moya. Yes, someone from the DBM might not be an obvious choice but we understand Moya functioned a lot like an “ICT czar” under the current administration.

More challenging was someone  who fit the bill as both knowledgeable on the technical side and has the right political credibility.

One name floated—we’re not sure he’s an option due to political and family loyalties—was Sen. Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV, cousin of President Aquino.

But then again, Biz Buzz heard the former legal chief of a large telco (there are only two, so take your pick), has also been angling for the job of “DICT head.”

This well respected lawyer has since retired from the telco but is still its consultant on legal, legislative and regulatory matters.

“Atty. S,” as we shall call him, has an ace which all other candidates don’t have: he went to school at San Beda with incoming President Duterte. Given the next president’s track record of choosing fellow Bedans for his Cabinet, it won’t be a surprise if Atty. S does get the job eventually.

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In any case, we hope whoever is selected is the right person for the task and will move us forward into the digital future. In other words, not a regular “DICT head.”  Miguel R. Camus and Daxim L. Lucas

Buying low

MAKING savvy investments has made businessman Ramon Ang a fortune, apart from his day job running San Miguel Corp.

His next tip: buy land in the province of Bulacan.

Of course, it’s news by now that SMC started work on the Metro Rail Transit Line 7, a train system that would connect Quezon City in Metro Manila to San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan, cutting the roughly two-hour journey by car (and traffic) to about 30 minutes.

For Ang, that kind of access would mean BPO locators would move to Bulacan and, with them, residential condominiums and commercial establishments. Business activity in San Jose and nearby areas would be stimulated.

Apparently, you can still buy land in Bulacan for about P500 a square meter (maybe it has gone up since some speculators likely bought ahead of you). Ang said that was a far cry from as much as the P150,000 a sqm along Edsa, where the MRT-3 is located.

Ang said the MRT-7 would have an initial capacity of 350,000 passengers a day, moving up to 800,000 eventually. As demand grows, this can go up to three million and it would be just a matter of adding cars and making the trains run faster, Ang said.

If you believe in all that, it might be an opportunity worth exploring. And no, you won’t be taking any land off the SMC boss’ hands. Ang said he did not spend a single peso speculating on land in San Jose del Monte.

“I don’t want people saying San Miguel is building MRT-7 just because we are going to make so much money from property investments there,” Ang said. Miguel R. Camus

Lagging FIT

WHETHER a fan of renewable energy or not, we electricity consumers pay for the feed-in-tariff allowance (FIT-ALL) as part of our electricity bill. The money is remitted by the distribution utility to National Transmission Co., which, in turn, is used to pay guaranteed rates to the renewable energy developers covered by the FIT regime.

But while the money is being collected from consumers, renewable energy producers often have to wait longer to collect their allowance. This is a common complaint we hear from renewable energy proponents.

Lopez-led First Philippine Holdings Corp.—the country’s biggest renewable energy developer– said it took an average of two months before the FIT allowance could be collected.

“Originally, we expected to collect immediately but right now, because the adjustments have not yet been completed and also due to the entry of other renewable energy, particularly solar, what’s happening is that there is a process with the regulators that will allow for a faster incremental process. That’s a work in progress right now,” FPH president Francis Giles Puno said.

“For us, we are waiting for the possible development to allow renewable energy players to collect in a timely manner the tariff that they were promised as part of their thrust toward investing in renewable energy,” he said. Doris Dumlao-Abadilla and Bernadette Nicolas

Starting on the wrong foot

BRASH billionaire Mikee Romero appears to be rubbing off some lawmakers the wrong way even before his name is officially on the list of members of the House of Representatives.

The 45-year old’s party-list group, 1-Pacman, won two seats in the 17th Congress (the second seat belongs to Eric Pineda, the business manager of boxing hero Manny Pacquiao).

Aside from co-opting Pacquiao’s moniker, “Pacman,” Romero spent a ton of money in television, radio, print and social media ads using famous sports personalities like Kris Aquino’s ex James Yap as celebrity endorsers. That 1-Pacman only got two seats instead of the maximum three was probably a let-down considering  the  money he spent for the campaign made senatorial or presidential bets look like scrooges.

Our Batasan buzzards told us that Romero has wasted no time in telling some friends about his intentions in Congress from running his own bloc to wanting to be a chair of a standing committee to even gunning for Speaker or at least Deputy Speaker someday.

Just days after his party-list obtained two seats, Romero has used his free time that he usually spends for playing polo or driving his exotics cars to meet up with both party-list and district members of the House.

Our buzzards said Romero had been taking the bill hosting group events of House members in posh restaurants and hotels to quickly build a network even before the 17th Congress opened in July.

Our buzzards said Romero also had ambitions to be a sort of kingmaker by promising to back up another party-list lawmaker as leader of the bloc he was forming (the House is just like college where freshmen are expected to go through a ritual and respect their seniors before they can take any important post).

Having generous and rich House members is not a novelty in Batasan. All of them won through the traditional way of running in their districts and through  subterfuge. You just don’t get a Forbes-ranked billionaire (who acts like one) from the ranks of the supposedly marginalized sector everyday. Gil Cabacungan

University cribs

WITH the new school year fast approaching, real estate portal Lamudi has analyzed condominium price data to show how much rent to expect from condos in Metro Manila’s university and college areas, particularly Manila’s university belt (U-belt) and Quezon City’s Katipunan Avenue.

In Manila’s U-belt area, Lamudi data as of May 2016 showed that the average rent of one-bedroom and studio condos was P16,241 a month. The average size of these condos is 29 square meters. (In some cases, multiple students rent a unit and split the costs). Many of these rental condos catering to U-belt students are located in the Ermita and Sampaloc districts.

Along Katipunan Avenue—the high-rise residential hub for those enrolled in University of the Philippines Diliman, Ateneo de Manila University, Miriam College and Philippine School for Business Administration—the average rent of studio and one-bedroom condos stands at P16,800 a month. The average size of one-bedroom and studio condos is also 29 sqm.

“These days, condos in Metro Manila are being built close to pretty much everything, and that include colleges and universities, so it is not that difficult to find one that’s practically a short walk away from the gate of one’s school,” Lamudi said. Doris Dumlao-Abadilla

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: Business, Department of Information and Communications Technology, dict, economy, News, President Benigno Aquino III
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