Biz Buzz: Water woes | Inquirer Business

Biz Buzz: Water woes

/ 05:24 AM June 27, 2014

Some concerned citizens of Zamboanga City—including several leaders of its business and civil society communities—are raising embarrassing questions about the water supply deal the local water district recently entered into with a firm called PrimeWater Infrastructure Corp.

You see, the problem on the ground is that Zamboanga City’s water situation, specifically its supply of drinking water, has degenerated from being one of the best in the country (due to a large and abundant watershed area and advanced treatment facilities) to its present situation where local consumers have to endure water rationing (almost as bad as the power rationing Mindanao is currently suffering).

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According to our sources, the local water utilities firm—which is controlled by the city government—entered into a 40-year agreement with PrimeWater for the latter to supply water to the city as well as to develop new water sources.

The concerned citizens are now asking: To develop what facilities? The city government already spent for their development in years past.

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At the same time, they’re also questioning the terms of the contract. Why 40 years, and extendable at that? This is, by far, the longest contract PrimeWater has sealed to date, having previously bagged a 10-year deal with the Iloilo local government unit and 25-year water deals with Lingayen, Pangasinan; and Daraga, Albay.

Also, the terms call for a 98 percent/2 percent split in investments between PrimeWater (which will invest the bulk of the resources) and the local water district (which will contribute 2 percent in cash). The citizens are worried that this will leave the locals with absolutely no voice in terms of the city’s water supply for the next… well… almost half a century.

Perhaps most importantly, the local civic leaders say they were practically left in the dark about the deal, especially when it was being crafted. They were unaware of any significant public consultation or debate held among the city’s stakeholders before the deal was sealed recently. So they’re obviously worried that the city’s water consumers have been left holding the short end of the stick.

Incidentally, we’re told that PrimeWater is owned by a businessman-turned-politician-turned-businessman (and probably soon to turn politician again in two years). The company has an office in one of the malls at a key Edsa intersection and another one in Las Piñas.–Daxim L. Lucas

The latest on GMA 7

It took them six months to announce it, but the deal for tycoon Ramon Ang to acquire a “significant minority” stake in GMA Network Inc. is now practically a done deal. (We understand, of course, that it was—for all intents and purposes—already a done deal when the buyer and sellers exchanged firm handshakes last January.)

Biz Buzz now hears that Ang (who is acquiring the country’s second-largest broadcast network on his own steam, independently of his San Miguel corporate empire) will be named GMA 7 chair at a special stockholders’ meeting to be called in the near future.

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At the same time, however, current GMA 7 chair and CEO Felipe Gozon will likely remain as CEO of the company for the short to medium term to help Ang transition into a more active role later on (and also to help assure internal and external stakeholders that any change will be well managed and will not be made drastically).

Incidentally, Gozon on Thursday sent word denying that the deal was struck at P10.60 a share or that the stake involved was equivalent to 30 percent as reported in the Inquirer. Right now, no one knows the official price or size yet, but for sure, it will be at a significant premium over the P9.20 a share that another former suitor offered.

For now, the official statement is that Ang has taken a “minority stake” in the broadcast firm. What the official statements fail to point out, of course, is that with even just the rumored 30 percent, the San Miguel head honcho is now also the single-biggest shareholder in GMA 7. Watch for further development, folks.–Daxim L. Lucas

H&M’s secret

Despite officials of the Department of Trade and Industry having announced that Swedish fashion retailer H&M would soon open its doors in the Philippines (having provided an actual date when its flagship store in SM Megamall would accommodate fanatical shoppers, in fact), officials of H&M are quietly displeased with government officials having spoiled their surprise.

“We would like to clarify that no definite date has been set by H&M for the official opening,” said H&M’s public relations agent Dan Mejia. “Please note that once the plans have been finalized, all information will be disseminated by our local PR agency, Bridges PR.”

Biz Buzz learned that H&M was worried that any adjustment in the timetable of its store’s opening would adversely affect public perception, given that government officials have already jumped the gun on the announcement.

Well, one really can’t blame the DTI officials for being over-eager to announce the entry of new investors to the Philippines. They have to justify the costs of all those investment road shows they often fly to all over the world, right?–Daxim L. Lucas

[email protected]’s 25th

About 400 guests, including high-powered folks like the CEO of the Philippines, P-Noy himself, toasted Megaworld Corp.’s 25th anniversary in a silver tie gala at Marriott Hotel Wednesday night. Founder Andrew Tan—a man who once sold watches and appliances and walked to school instead of taking public transport to save money—looked back at Megaworld’s humble beginnings as a small company with five employees (including himself) to the 5,000-plus organization it is today. Recovering strongly from the Asian currency crisis, Megaworld is now one of the country’s leading property developers.

“It really brings me great pleasure to see that Dr. Tan’s unwavering belief in our country and in our people is being rewarded,” said President Aquino, noting that Megaworld’s successes were “no flukes” and that Tan’s secret must be his perseverance, patience and compassion. And P-Noy must have enjoyed the event as when he would usually come and go in other social events, he stayed for a long time, enjoyed the entertainment provided by the likes of Lea Salonga and partook in the five-course feast inspired by the five territories from which Megaworld had drawn inspiration from in its master-planning—France, Spain, Italy, United States and the Mediterranean.

In his speech, P-Noy drew the most applause (and laughter) when he said that since Tan kept on inviting him to Megaworld’s events, he would return the favor by publicly inviting the tycoon to his 25th wedding anniversary. “…Since the countdown has not started yet, I regret that I cannot give you a date that can be blocked off by your staff,” said the country’s most eligible bachelor.

The President added that whenever he sees Tan, he always compliments him on the “efficacy” of his marketing staff. “They never fail to send me at least two text messages inviting me to purchase one of their condominiums, on a weekly basis, and this is after I had changed my number,” he said, to which Tan, in turn, had given his assurance that he had never shared the President’s mobile number to anybody.

When Megaworld lost the FTI bid, P-Noy recalled that instead of barraging him with a litany of complaints, Tan had gracefully accepted the results, telling him that the government would get the maximum value for the property and that Megaworld would keep its cash for other projects it was more interested in. “This is the complete lack of self-entitlement I have always admired in Dr. Tan—the kind of humility that I have prayed, at times, for a lot more individuals to acquire from all sectors to replicate,” he said–Doris C. Dumlao

E-mail us at [email protected] 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: Anniversaries, Benigno Aquino III, GMA 7 media acquisition, H&M, Megaworld, PrimeWater Infrastructure Corp., Ramon Ang, Retail, Water Supply, zamboanga city
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