As the debate continues over the best location for Manila’s new international airport, the country’s flag carrier only has this request: Get it done.
Philippine Airlines president Jaime Bautista said that both private sector proposals, each massive airports either in Bulacan or a reclaimed land in Sangley Point, Cavite, were suitable for PAL. The completion of a new airport is in step with preparations for the eventual closure of Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport, which cannot be expanded significantly.
“We just need a new airport, hopefully not too far from Manila,” Bautista said.
For airline operators, it would be good to know government’s long-term policy on a new airport as demand moves higher but capacity especially at Manila, the country’s main gateway, remains constrained.
It appears the private sector wants the Department of Transportation to make this a high-priority issue. It has scheduled a second business forum on the matter in just as many weeks. Last month, the Joint Foreign Chambers of the Philippines held an open discussion on airport policy, with a key recommendation to speed up the development of Clark International Airport in the interim. Tomorrow, the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry wants to zero in on the location of a new air gateway for Manila.
With these talks rides the hope that fruitful discussion would translate to firm policy action as soon as can be managed. —MIGUEL R. CAMUS
New money for Alphaland
For someone who lost more than P30 billion worth of stock value just a few months ago (after his Philweb Corp. suffered the corporate equivalent of an extrajudicial killing), so-called “oligarch” Roberto Ongpin is in relatively high spirits nowadays.
And why not? Last week, the businessman threw a testimonial dinner for his longtime associate, Jojo Manalo, who had worked for him diligently and—perhaps more importantly, patiently and loyally —for all of the last 50 years.
That’s five decades of “martyrdom,” some say in jest, knowing Ongpin’s perfectionist and demanding ways among his coworkers and staff.
Gracing the dinner in honor of Manalo at the Alphaland City Club were, among others, former Prime Minister Cesar Virata (with whom Ongpin served in the Marcos Cabinet), Philippine Airlines president Jaime Bautista (Ongpin’s former colleague at SGV & Co.), former Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., Irene Marcos-Araneta, Gregorio Araneta III, former Alphaland president Mario Oreta, and Ongpin’s nephews Eric Recto and Dennis Valdes. Also spotted at the event was former RCBC president Lorenzo Tan, now back in the social circuit after a tumultuous 2016.
In any case, RVO (as Ongpin is known to friends and foes) has reason to smile nowadays. His Alphaland Corp. last week signed a loan agreement with BDO Unibank for a P5.5 billion, 7-year financing facility. Maturities of existing bank loans of Alphaland are within the next two to three years, and this 7-year term loan from BDO—with a one-year grace period, mind you —is expected to “greatly improve” the property developer’s financial position.
Are the good times back for RVO? That remains to be seen, but it’s probably safe to say that he has weathered the worst. At the very least, the man still knows how to throw a party. —DAXIM L. LUCAS
Berberabe goes private
Corporate lawyer Darlene Marie Berberabe has stepped down as Pag-Ibig president to join the private sector. She will assume the post of Philab Holdings (DNA) as president and chief executive officer effective today, March 1.
Philab’s controlling stockholder Hector Thomas Navasero, erstwhile chair and president, decided to dichotomize the posts as part of the bid to professionalize management. When he assumed control of the company founded by his father, his first move was to ask all relatives employed by Philab to resign. He will, however, remain as chair of Philab.
Berberabe had long tendered her resignation from Pag-Ibig but it took a while for her to move to Philab because Pres. Rodrigo Duterte hadn’t appointed anyone to take over the helm of Pag-IBIG. In fact, Malacañang has yet to appoint a new Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) after the resignation of Vice President Leni Robredo late last year.
These are among the many posts within the housing sector – an industry where business considerably slowed since last year’s presidential turnover—that have yet to be filled by the new administration.
Meanwhile, apart from enlisting Berberabe, Philab has acquired Asia’s first NovaSeq 6000 Genomic Sequencers. These machines are capable of simultaneously processing many genomes at a time.
This is in line with the company’s plan to provide whole genome sequencing services which shall sequence human DNA. With the region’s very first system set in the Philippines, the country is seen a good position to become a center of genetic mapping in the region.
Genomics is the study of the entire set of genes found in living things, including humans, plants, animals and even viruses. Experts in genomics strive to determine complete DNA sequences and perform genetic mapping to help understand diseases.
Philab plans to sell up to 500 million common shares at P3.25-P6.75 per share. Investment house Philippine Commercial Capital Inc. has been mandated as the lead underwriter for the follow-on offering. —DORIS DUMLAO-ABADILLA
What is banker Joey Bermudez up to nowadays apart from shuttling back and forth between work in Manila and his family in Toronto, Canada? Well, it appears that he’s been busy pushing his advocacy of making financing more accessible to small borrowers.
The firm he runs—Maybridge Finance and Leasing Inc.—is a financial institution focusing on the unbanked sector and has recently signed an agreement with Backbone South SME, a private limited liability company in Luxembourg, to establish the SME Loan Emerging Market Fund-Philippines.
According to Bermudez, the fund will support the continuous growth and expansion of small and medium enterprises that have a significant impact on the Philippine economy.
Under the deal, Maybridge and Backbone will co-finance SMEs that need loans above P3 million for a wide range of purposes: acquisition of fixed assets, working capital, servicing of purchase orders, agricultural activities, and eco-friendly projects.
Of specific interest to the fund are SMEs that generate meaningful employment, expand business turnover, increase the poor’s access to basic needs, strengthen value chains, promote food security, strengthen the rural economy and support the environment.
The loans can carry a maximum term of four years.
For this year, the fund hoped to deploy P72 million in loanable funds—neither too big nor too small, but just enough to get the partners’ feet wet, Bermudez said.
Backbone will provide 80 percent of the funding while Maybridge will provide the remaining 20 percent. Origination, underwriting and credit administration will be performed by Maybridge, but it will share the responsibility for loan adjudication with Backbone.
From its inception in 2008, Maybridge has lent heavily to individual borrowers, including blue collar workers, wage earners, overseas Filipino workers and micro-entrepreneurs. Over the last two years, it laid the groundwork for aggressive SME lending to diversify portfolio risks and to leverage on the extensive experience and knowledge of its principals and executives in SME lending. —DAXIM L. LUCAS