Biz Buzz: When Lagarde met the ‘President’
So President Aquino was down with the flu last week, leaving International Monetary Fund managing director Christine Lagarde no choice but to meet with Vice President Jejomar Binay instead.
If you noticed Saturday’s front-page picture on the Inquirer showing the Vice President and the IMF chief sharing a hearty laugh, it was because Lagarde, upon being introduced to Binay, greeted him as “Mr. President” (either she still had P-Noy in mind or—as Binay’s fans are hoping—she had a vision of events in 2016).
Discussions between Binay and Lagarde centered around the role that overseas Filipino workers play in boosting the Philippine economy—OFWs being one of the Vice President’s favorite advocacies and capital flows being Lagarde’s.
Lagarde must know a thing or two about expatriate Filipino workers since the IMF headquarters in Washington, D.C., is staffed by a few hundred Filipinos (the internal joke being that work at the IMF would stop if all Filipinos suddenly go on strike).
In any case, Lagarde corrected herself after referring to Binay as the President, to which Binay responded: “The IMF has always been known for foresight.”
According to witnesses present, nervous laughter was heard at this point from Budget Secretary and Liberal Party stalwart Florencio “Butch” Abad.—Daxim L. Lucas
Lagarde on ‘sin’ taxes
During her press briefing in Malacañang, the IMF chief was asked by reporters about her views on what constitutes good tax policy (given the ongoing sin tax controversy).
She replied that, in general, “the criteria for good taxation are a broad [tax] base and a very small rate [of increases].”
Sitting a few feet away from her in the press briefing room was Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima who, of course, is pushing for a 1,000-percent increase in the sin tax rate (over a three-year period).
Awkward.—Daxim L. Lucas
With the Christmas season fast approaching, Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao last week raised the curtain for gift-giving in Congress, where he now sits as a newbie lawmaker representing the lone district of Sarangani. But the Pacman—who gained fame and fortune from boxing and is now arguably the most famous Filipino athlete—went beyond the usual cookies, wine, ham, chicharon, local handicraft and delicacies that congressmen give to each other during the Yuletide season.
According to our reliable sources, Pacman gifted his peers with the limited edition TechnoMarine watch designed in honor of the Filipino international boxing champ. We’re talking about the timepiece “Manny Pacquiao 8” or “MP8” (The number 8 symbolizes Pacquiao’s eight world boxing championship titles), which is selling at a retail price of P29,800. Each MP8 gift came with a Christmas card that reads “Wishing You and Your Family a Blessed Holiday Season from Hon. Emmanuel and Mrs. Jinkee Pacquiao.”
Now, because Pacman endorses TechnoMarine, he probably got a good wholesale deal from the local distributor, if this isn’t part of his endorsement package. Note that there are only 1,000 pieces of this limited edition MP8 design, of which 287 are now owned by congressmen, assuming each and every solon got a package from the Pacman.—Doris C. Dumlao
The Firm vs Chavez
The libel case filed by a partner of “The Firm” against lawyer Frank Chavez has been yanked out of Bohol and transferred to Metro Manila.
Favorably acting on Chavez’s request for a transfer of venue, the Supreme Court pulled out the libel case from Bohol and assigned it to Pasig City. The Supreme Court gave credit to Chavez’s averments that the libel case in Bohol was filed only to harass him considering that the matters sued upon emanated from trimedia based in Metro Manila, that “The Firm” and its lawyers allegedly slandered also hold offices in Metro Manila, of the 11 libel cases against Chavez, 10 were filed in Metro Manila and that the libel case filed in Bohol stands out like a sore thumb, creating the impression that it was meant to deliberately inconvenience Chavez.
Chavez has since filed a perjury charge against The Firm’s partner for allegedly lying under oath that he was a Bohol resident when the libel case was filed. To keep tab on the score, it is now 7-0 in favor of Chavez. (Four libel cases dismissed, one perjury case dismissed, one damage suit dismissed and Bohol case transferred to Pasig).
In response, a member of The Firm said: “If Chavez considers the mere change of venue a win, he must really be getting desperate. Fact remains that he is just out on bail for the moment. We wish him well in his defense.”—Daxim L. Lucas
MVP in Bangsamoro
As we cited earlier, businessman Manuel V. Pangilinan aka MVP is looking southward and has hired a top consultant—a former Cabinet member who is well-entrenched in Mindanao government, business and politics—to look at opportunities in the region. Apart from agriculture, MVP’s group is scouting for opportunities in power generation and distribution in Mindanao to complement the power business under Manila Electric Co., a source close to MVP said.
In agriculture, the group is drawing up more tangible plans to get into banana, sugarcane, palm oil and rice production in line with its thrust to address food security issues. For palm oil, a land area of 10 hectares has been identified. For banana, the group wants to make sure there is a good distribution arm for Asia, Europe and the United States.
The group is likewise looking at power generation and distribution in Mindanao. “There is a power shortage and we are willing to invest,” the source said. The power expansion in Mindanao will be done through Meralco, subject to the leeway allowed by its franchise, or the acquisition of existing power plants in the region.—Doris C. Dumlao
Daang Hari warning ignored
Prior to tendering the Daang Hari project, a special meeting happened in December 2011 among the government’s economic managers to tackle the PPP program. Attention was anchored on the Daang Hari project, as they wanted to ensure the project’s success, being the maiden PPP project of the Aquino administration.
Instead, its flaws are now coming out of the woodwork—but not without warning, Biz Buzz learned.
According to a source, former National Economic and Development Authority chief Dondon Paderanga wanted to re-advertise the new terms of reference that altered both the tariff and concession period of the Daang Hari concession. But his proposal was supposedly countered by a Department of Finance deputy and an official of the PPP Center.
As his warning went unheeded, the government not only overlooked that it may have disenfranchised potential bidders (which dropped out of the bidding because of low returns and the short concession period), it may have also unwittingly allowed the winning bidder to force the government to underwrite a costly project revision. (The concession period was extended to 30 years from 25 years and the tariff adjusted north of 25 percent a week before the bidding.)
Bad move. Looks like the former Neda chief was right, after all.—Daxim L. Lucas
While the Ramos family is working to restructure Vulcan Industrial and Mining Corp. with the possible infusion of retail businesses, it is also looking at its options for United Paragon Mining Corp. (UPM), which has an old producing gold mine—Longos Mine in Paracale, Camarines Norte, which suspended operations in 2003 after reeling from the serious depletion of economic reserves, high operating costs and low metal prices.
UPM would have been revived but because of the new mining framework, getting a renewal of a mining permit is now difficult. As such, UPM is looking at other assets in the area, particularly those already armed with the much-coveted mineral production sharing agreement (MPSA).
“We’re looking into the other assets in the area,” says Adrian Ramos, one of the company directors.
This developed as the family’s flagship mining unit Atlas Consolidated Mining and Corp. attained a financial turnaround and is likely to start paying dividends next year out of 2012 net profit (expected to slightly exceed the 2011 level of P2.6 billion). By next year, Atlas expects revenues and production volume to grow 30 percent, resulting in a faster bottom-line growth. Atlas is also set to ship out copper concentrates to Philippine Associated Smelting and Refining Corp. before the year ends, the first time in nearly two decades that the country’s only copper smelter and refinery will source inputs from a local mining firm.—Doris C. Dumlao
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