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Biz Buzz: ‘Very picky’ president

/ 12:14 AM June 26, 2015

Organizers of this year’s Asia Pacific Economic Conference (Apec) leaders’ meeting happening this November in Manila knew the event was always going to be a logistical nightmare.

For starters, local bureaucrats are quick to admit that they were never going to top last year’s Apec meeting in Beijing, a city not known for sparing any expense. And with 21 heads of state of most of the world’s leading economies coming to town, local organizers are under a lot of pressure.

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The latest problem comes in the form of one of the hotel choice of a certain head of state, a president (in)famous for getting his way no matter what.

Plans were drawn up earlier this year to have most leaders to stay in the central business district of Makati. Each president/prime minister gets his/her own hotel (most hotels only have one presidential suite each). The only exception was President Obama, who chose to stay at the same hotel that hosted him the last time he was here. Incidentally, that hotel is also closest to where the actual meetings are to take place in Manila City.

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For whatever reason, however, the ’Very Particular’ president we’re talking about thumbed down the hotel choice made for him by our local organizers. This president wants his own hotel away from the other commanders-in-chief.

Our government, of course, has no choice. Defy him and risk sending an insult, no matter how small it is. But complying with his request—with all the attendant logistical and security arrangements—will definitely add an extra layer of stress that our already-frazzled organizers could do without.   Paolo Montecillo

SM in Ilocandia

Even with 52 local shopping malls, the biggest mall network in the Philippines, the SM empire has yet to cover some strategic areas in this consumer-driven economy. One of these is the Ilocos region, home to so many households with regular foreign exchange windfall from the Philippine diaspora.

This will soon change as SM Prime Holdings Inc. goes further north of Luzon. It is now establishing a footprint in Laoag, Ilocos Norte, and is scouting for opportunities San Fernando, La Union.

In Laoag, the capital city of Ilocos Norte, SM Prime has secured a landbank to build on its future mall but land titles were still being consolidated, SM Prime chief finance officer Jeffrey Lim said. As such, ground-breaking may have to wait until the third quarter of next year.

Rival Robinsons Land Corp. has long entered the Ilocandia with a shopping mall in San Nicolas, Ilocos Norte.

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“We’re looking for more landbank in the region. We’re also looking at San Fernando, La Union,” Lim said. “I think there’s a lot of positive development (in these areas). The economy is improving so we just have to determine whether it will be regional or smaller type of malls,” Lim said.

Apart from the Ilocandia, another new frontier for SM Prime is Zamboanga City in Mindanao. Doris Dumlao-Abadilla

Gone too soon

The banking industry lost one of its better men this week. Gary Villanueva, executive vice-president and head of Rizal Commercial Banking Corp.’s Global Transaction Banking group, passed away last Saturday.

Details are still fuzzy, but from what we hear, Gary, who was in his mid 50s, collapsed while playing basketball and that was it.

Villanueva, who his friends would jokingly call Gary V., was in charge of RCBC’s remittance business. Under his leadership, the remittance business became one of RCBC’s biggest sources of growth.

The global transaction business group that Villanueva led also has a complete suite of working capital solutions in cash management, trade finance and electronic banking for the bank’s corporate and retail clients.

Prior to joining RCBC, Villanueva in worked major financial markets with several multinational banking institutions.

Villanueva had an MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and a Bachelor of Science in Applied Economics from De La Salle University. He was 54. Paolo Montecillo

‘Goodwill gesture’

Reghis Romero II has offered to advance the obligations of state guarantee firm Home Guarantee Corp. (HGC) amounting to P2.9 billion “in a bid to help the government from incurring P500,000 a day in interest expenses,” according to a statement released by the businessman’s camp.

Romero recently wrote Vice President Jejomar Binay (who was HGC vice chair prior to relinquishing his Cabinet post) and Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima (HGC chair) saying he was willing to reimburse the P2.9 billion guaranty exposure of HGC in the Smokey Mountain development and reclamation project (SMDRP) in order to the stop the interest expenses, which had been piling up for the past 14 years.

“In order to help the government from further incurring expenses in shouldering the cost of interest expenses amounting to P500,000 per day and assist in the reported liquidity issues of HGC, we are offering this settlement proposal to the government for its consideration,” said Romero, who chairs RII Builders Inc.

In his letter, Romero said the P2.9-billion offer was based on data in their possession since HGC has not provided his firm with a definite figure on its exposure.

Of course, Romero and HGC have been butting heads for years over the Smokey Mountain project, and Romero’s offer is his way of trying to end the impasse. This is especially after the housing committee in the Lower House urged Romero and HGC to meet at the negotiating table to end the protracted dispute.

The Court of Appeals, which is also hearing a case in relation to the Smokey Mountain asset pool, had also urged the parties to settle the case and resolve outstanding payments in order to stop interest expenses from piling up.

Romero’s camp said his offer would also ease HGC’s decade-long financial woes and beneficiaries of the Smokey Mountain project would finally receive the titles to their housing units.

“Considering that more than 14 years had lapsed and settlement of the respective claims of HGC, the National Housing Authority and R-II remain outstanding, we believe that it is prudent for the parties concerned and advantageous to the government to finally reach an agreement to fully settle their respective claims,” Romero wrote.

Will the government agency accept his “gesture of goodwill”? Let’s wait for their response. Daxim L. Lucas

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TAGS: APEC, Biz Buzz, Business, column, gary Villanueva, home guarantee corp., ilocos region, logistics, Obit, reghis romero ii, SM
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