Biz Buzz: Troubled depositorsBy the staff
Philippine Daily Inquirer
The troubles of depositors, mostly owners of medium-size businesses, persist as Export and Industry Bank (EIB) remains shuttered. One has suffered a stroke. Another depositor, who lost his investment from the implosion of a pre-need firm, had P8 million of his mother’s money stuck in the bank. Her mother used to draw funds from the account for her medicines.
A trader, who lives with his octogenarian mother, can no longer access the P120 million he placed in the bank. So is a widow who deposited some P80 million that she used in her business. Then there’s a cancer survivor who had to forego her scheduled treatment abroad because she could not tap her funds in EIB.
Lifetime savings and retirement money are now beyond the reach of a former executive of a universal bank. A travel agency operator must raise P9 million to be paid to airlines because he could not withdraw the same amount from EIB.
A bank employee said most depositors opened accounts in her branch in Manila because they trusted and personally knew her. She tearfully recalled that P5 million in savings of her son who works in an emirate was in EIB and that she deposited a total of $10,700 of her son’s remittance in the bank on April 26, the day regulators ordered the bank shuttered.
A number of depositors have formed EIB Depositors Recovery Group Inc. to push for the rehabilitation of the bank. They hope that one of the six commercial banks, which have expressed interest in EIB, can acquire it and help end their nightmare.—Juan V. Sarmiento Jr.
Probing coal stockpiling
As environmentalists seek government intervention against reported coal stockpiling in the Romeros’ Harbour Centre Port Terminal along Manila Bay, we hear that port operator and tycoon Ricky Razon of International Container Terminal Services Inc. is also fuming over Harbour Centre’s alleged predatory pricing policies.
And how is Harbour Centre able to undercut pricing of port terminal operations along Manila Bay?
Agham party list Rep. Angelo Palmones has raised the possibility that Harbour Centre is engaged in coal trading (read: this lucrative activity may be subsidizing overall terminal operations). Palmones is, of course, the most vocal critic of Harbour Centre’s stockpiling of coal, which is allegedly being done without safety nets such as soil lining for courtyards, collection system or water runoff and connection to waste treatment plant.
“We understand that Energy Assistant Secretary Ramon Oca said that the coal stockpiled at the port was not for power generation but for the use of small industries, and that the port was being used as a transshipment point for delivery to buyers. If indeed these areas are merely transshipment areas, we’d like to know if the coal therein are being traded for business purposes as we are further made to understand that coal traders are required to register with the Department to weed out illegal activities and protect the revenues due the national government,” Palmones said in a letter to Energy Secretary Jose Rene Almendras dated July 1.
But Palmones said that the biggest issue in investigating the mountains of coal near the waters of Manila Bay was safety, noting that spontaneous combustion could occur when the coal has been stockpiled for some time. The solon has urged the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Manila Bay Advisory Committee, Department of Transportation and Communications (as overseer of Philippine Ports Authority) and Department of Interior and Local Government to look into this. A coal stockyard without the necessary safeguards in place, Palmones said, is an “accident waiting to happen.”—Doris C. Dumlao
Harbour Centre says…
A publicist for Harbour Centre boss Mikee Romero told Biz Buzz that the allegations against his client were “baseless, malicious and geared at launching a propaganda campaign against Reghis Romero (Mikee’s dad).”
He disputed the allegations lodged by Representative Palmones, saying the firm has all the requisite permits and licenses from regulators, including an environmental clearance certificate from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
The company also has all the required safety equipment and standards to ensure that the coal being handled in transit does not contaminate the environment.
The company added: “We have already filed a libel case against [another newspaper] for printing the wrong picture, and printing the wrong information. The picture was of pier 18 in North Harbor, not of Harbour Centre. We are rated ISO 9001. How can we have a rating like that if we were engaged in businesses other than what we applied for? We do not engage in any coal trading.”
Naturally, the Harbour Centre people think there’s more than meets the eye in this latest round of criticism against the firm. A cursory glance at its history of corporate rivalry may hold the answer to the mystery.—Daxim L. Lucas and Paolo Montecillo
… as HGC joins the fray
While still under fire from AGHAM party-list Rep. Angelo Palmones over allegations of coal stockpiling at the Manila Harbour Centre, businessman Reghis Romero II and son Mikee Romero are set to face another nemesis: the government corporation Home Guaranty Corp. From what we gather, HGC is set to come out in public in the next few days to lend credence to Palmones’ safety and environmental concerns.
HGC, which has a claim on the equity of Harbour Centre Port Terminal Inc. (HCPTI), reported to the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) as early as December 2010 what it deemed as an illegal stockpiling of coal on HGC’s own properties at the Manila Harbour Centre. How did HGC get involved in this? HGC took possession of stocks of HCPTI and the Smokey Mountain Asset Pool as a result of a failed completion of a joint-venture agreement between the National Housing Authority (NHA) and the Romeros’ R-II Builders Inc. (to convert the Smokey Mountain dumpsite into a habitable housing project inclusive of the reclamation of the areas across R10 road). It was assigned control of 65 lots in Harbor Centre.
Apparently, HGC had sent a team that conducted ocular inspection in this area last May and was not happy with what it saw. We hear that the HGC would call for a press conference to likewise voice its concerns on coal stockpiling.—Doris C. Dumlao
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