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Biz Buzz: Sexual harassment?

/ 03:52 AM May 18, 2015

THE LOCAL chapter of an international organization of financial sector professionals has been rocked by allegations of sexual harassment leveled by no less than a ranking official of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP).

But hold your horses. Before you get all excited, note that this BSP official was not, in any way, involved in the supposed sexual harassment issue, and especially not the victim.

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Instead, this BSP official brought the issue before the officers of ACI Philippines Inc. —an organization of bank treasurers, traders and dealers, among others—for an incident that supposedly occurred during the group’s annual convention-slash-party in Bohol last month.

Local bankers know, of course, that this female BSP official is not to be trifled with, especially since she carries considerable weight in the local financial markets.

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Biz Buzz learned that, upon hearing about a supposed incidence of sexual harassment during the ACI convention, this BSP official fired off an e-mail to the group’s officers raising red flags about the bankers’ ethics and potential violations of the group’s code of conduct.

What exactly happened? According to our source, the supposed perpetrators of the harassment were three junior traders from a universal bank owned by a family with Spanish roots, although the third trader’s involvement was unclear and may have been just caught up in the mess. The supposed targets were two female traders from a local bank unit exclusively for wealthy clients and a big foreign bank.

Here’s where it gets murky. Our source says the allegedly offense falls squarely within the gray area. “Everyone was drinking and there were some sexual innuendoes in the conversation,” said one banker who was at the convention. One supposed offender tried to put his arm around one of the victims with little success.

“That was it. But the story kept growing,” our source said, adding that rumors about the incident have morphed into supposed attempts by the traders to grab the ladies’ behinds.

But the e-mail sent by the BSP official has spurred the ACI board, along with some former ACI presidents, to open an investigation.

And understandably, the group’s top brass are under pressure to make some heads roll, given the influence of the BSP official.

(We’re told that no complainants have yet come forward, in which case, the BSP official—who believes that the traders are guilty—thinks it should become a “People of the Philippines versus the alleged perpetrators” issue.)

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Worse, the universal bank where the three alleged perpetrators work is also under pressure because some trading counterparties have been calling them and asking about the issue, we’re told. Daxim L. Lucas

PLDT’s pivot

PHILIPPINE Long Distance Telephone Co. has talked much about shifting its business amid the so-called digital revolution, and one of the more telling signs was its hiring of serial entrepreneur Winston Damarillo for the position of chief strategy officer.

We know that’s a bit self-contradictory, hiring an entrepreneur—but Damarillo, among the few Filipinos who has made a name for himself in Silicon Valley, said it was possible to be both.

“PLDT is my Silicon Valley,” Damarillo told Biz Buzz, referring to technological possibilities applicable across the group of its parent firm First Pacific Co. Ltd., whose interests range from food, mining, healthcare, power and infrastructure.

It’s also not surprising that Damarillo, who hasn’t worked for 15 years since trading his job at Intel for the uncertain path of a technology entrepreneur, didn’t get a regular job at PLDT.

He said he would be allowed to keep and run all his existing ventures, otherwise he could get “bored.”

Expect PLDT to hire more like-minded individuals as it continues this pivot from providing services through a mere “dumb pipe” into a “smart platform,” its chair Manuel Pangilinan said.

PLDT, which also tapped Damarillo as head of its just-launched Big Data service, would be seeking to beef up this workforce even as it undergoes a painful manpower reduction program that could slash hundreds of existing jobs in favor of new skill sets.

This need was likely underscored during Pangilinan’s visit to Silicon Valley a year ago that set off a series of acquisitions, including a stake in Germany’s Rocket Internet. Miguel R. Camus

Crucial pitch

IT ALL comes down to a 20-minute presentation in Geneva, Switzerland, this June after months—some might argue years—of preparation that would decide whether the Philippines can host the Fiba World Cup in 2019.

That’s how much time the Philippines and the only other contender, China, will be given to convince the board of Fiba, or International Basketball Federation, that they can host the game’s most prestigious global tournament in four years, Manuel V. Pangilinan, PLDT chair and Fiba board member said.

Pangilinan, a staunch supporter of sports in the country, said both the Philippines and China will make their final pitch on June 18 and a decision would follow shortly after that.

Is he worried? Perhaps a little bit. China, after all, has massive resources to spend in endeavors it wishes to pursue. We’ve seen that in the spectacle they put together in the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games all the way to airstrips now rising out of the sea in disputed waters off the Philippine coast.

“They have the money and full support of the government,” Pangilinan said. Infrastructure, too, would play a big role and, hopefully, some of the bottlenecks we are now experiencing would have been solved by then.

Pangilinan noted that while the Philippines “will give its best shot,” the country also has some not-so-secret sauce that could put it ahead of its larger neighbor.

“It’s just the passion of Filipinos, or ‘puso’, for basketball. That’s where I can say we probably have an edge over China,” Pangilinan said. Hopefully, the rest of the Fiba board will consider that as well. Miguel R. Camus

Shell’s capital call

IT HASN’T taken the plunge yet notwithstanding chronic prodding from government, not even with the lucrative local equity market in recent years.

But while it has yet to undertake the initial public offering (IPO) mandated by the Philippine oil market liberalization law, Pilipinas Shell Petroleum may tap the capital market soon while remaining as a privately held company.

In a very recent stockholders’ meeting, Pilipinas Shell obtained approval from its shareholders (which include, albeit in the minority, many of the country’s large institutional investors) to increase its authorized capital stock by 2.5 billion shares.

The increase in authorized capital, subject to approval by the Securities and Exchange Commission, will allow Pilipinas Shell to undertake a stock rights offering or make a fresh capital call to existing shareholders. We heard from the market that the oil firm was raising money to finance major projects such as the construction of an oil depot in Mindanao, the upgrade of its refinery as well as to retire debt.

The sale of new shares to existing investors is proposed to be priced at P20 a share. Total proceeds are expected to reach P18 billion.

Amid the global oil downturn that resulted in heavy inventory losses, Pilipinas Shell was estimated to have incurred P8.5 billion in net losses in 2014. Doris Dumlao-Abadilla

Big Bang diffused

GOOD news: An issue brought up here on Biz Buzz appears to have been resolved. That is, the one where authorities warned of a big “Bang!” where a real estate developer got busy on top of a section of the gas pipeline from the Malampaya platform without consent.

Last February, we wrote about a development that mushroomed on top of a segment of the pipeline leading to the 1,000-megawatt (MW) Sta. Rita and 500-MW San Lorenzo gas-fired power plants.

The Malampaya consortium has road right of way along the route of its pipeline but the developer somehow managed to start building houses in a segment of the route without proper permits. That sent chills up the spine of stakeholders concerned of a potential “Boom!”

Several rounds of talks apparently ensued since then between several agencies and concerned parties in the issue.

There was a little tension between authorities and the developer toward the end, approaching the realm of action movies, sources said, but the situation was diffused at last when the latter agreed to stop construction in the area above the pipeline.

Whether the development project gets moved, trimmed or simply bides its time until the heat passes, so to speak, is anyone’s guess. The stakeholders, we hope, will keep their eyes open. Riza T. Olchondra

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: Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, Business, economy, Malampaya, News, PLDT, Sexual Harassment
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