Biz Buzz: Zambales mining mess | Inquirer Business

Biz Buzz: Zambales mining mess

/ 12:02 AM October 07, 2015

The Philipine mining industry could be the world’s most regulated industry and yet government’s help—if the industry needs it—has been dismal if not utterly disappointing. For the most part, mining firms are left to fend for themselves in cases where they are harassed and given the circuitous rounds by local government units (LGUs) in areas they operate in or explore for minerals.

Industry circles in recent weeks have been exploding with reports that mining in Zambales is in such a mess following the recent closure of LnL Archipelago Minerals Inc., Benguet Corp. Nickel Mines Inc. and Eramen Minerals Inc. in the municipalities of Sta. Cruz and Candelaria. The closure was precipitated by the supposed mineral leakage from these companies such that the color of downstream river has turned into reddish brown.

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Reports that the Zambales provincial government has allowed some of them to re-open in exchange for their participation in building “haul roads” trended in the social media because of the surfacing of a certain personality—let’s call him “Mr. M”—who was reported to have negotiated the deal. Mr. M’s intercession fueled speculations of a “shakedown” of mining companies in Zambales.

But lo and behold, during a recent Senate hearing, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau disclosed that there was, in truth, no contamination of the rivers, echoing the findings of some geologists who opined that it was only natural for the soil in the mining areas to cascade downstream during heavy rains, and this was what has been causing the color of the water to turn reddish brown.

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The area, they said, was rich with nickel laterite, making the soil incapable of harboring trees, which could have helped mitigate soil erosion. They said that even without mining, the river’s color would always turn reddish brown whenever it rained. But apparently, this natural phenomenon has been turned into a money-making enterprise by some individuals.

Also, these firms are not required by law to build these roads. They are already heavily invested in building infrastructure and taking care of the indigenous people. These companies are now confused as to how they are supposed to deal with Mr. M—a person who is not connected with any agencies involved in mining, but who apparently has ties with high-ranking provincial authorities.

These mining firms in Zambales are now in a quandary on why they were closed twice, if indeed there was no contamination as confirmed by the MGB in the first place.

What is happening in Zambales is not an isolated case. Local laws—even when they are directly opposed to the spirit of the Philippine Mining Act (which is supposed to be superior to local ordinances)—have been constricting the growth of the country’s minerals industry. Not only is the industry heavily regulated, it is also heavily taxed: Corporate, excise, withholding, customs duties, value added, and mineral reservation royalty, among others.

Perhaps the next administration can do a better job of harnessing the industry’s potential. Daxim L. Lucas

AIM president exits

THREE years after hiring a new president to arrest the school’s slide in enrollment numbers (among other issues it faced), the Asian Institute of Management is once more on the lookout for a new CEO.

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Biz Buzz learned that the Makati-based business school’s board of trustees recently accepted the resignation of its president, Steven DeKrey, ahead of the end of his contract.

“It’s more like a pre-termination of his contract,” said one AIM official with knowledge of the development. “But he will stay on until the middle of next year.”

DeKrey was hired in 2012 from his former post at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology’s business school at a time when AIM—formerly the region’s premier business learning institution—was experiencing a prolonged period of declining enrollment numbers.

He had sought to reverse this trend with some new initiatives, including new programs with a “mixed degree of success,” said one of our sources. “He resigned for personal reasons, we understand.”

So what’s next for AIM? Apparently, the search is on again, both locally and overseas, for another president who will help guide the school through challenging times (especially nowadays when business schools in Singapore have been drawing potential students away from AIM).

So going forward, expect more changes at the school, yet again. Daxim L. Lucas

Indie film underwriting

THE STARMOMETER appeal of John Arcilla—especially to businessmen bankrolling indie films—has certainly zoomed since his portrayal of “Heneral Luna” in the historical biopic of the same title.

Arcilla was invited and has agreed to appear in a socially oriented mystery-thriller movie being produced by investment banker Roberto “Juanchito” Dispo that calls attention to the plight of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

Arcilla will play the role of a sharp-tongued and quick-witted Filipino senator, someone like the male version of Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago. Dispo’s group is now finalizing the cast of his dream movie. Ronaldo Valdez is being considered to play a rich patriarch with one son who will rise to become senator and another, a paraplegic. Richard Gomez is being considered to play the role of the senator-son and Piolo Pascual, the paraplegic.

The president of First Metro Investment Corp., in his personal capacity, has teamed up with Viva Films to create his dream movie, whose plot he himself wrote but the screenplay was done by professionals. Viva has recommended that Joel Lamangan be brought on board as director.

Dispo has budgeted P15 million for the film, proceeds from which will be donated to organizations helping OFWs. But after word about this show biz venture got out, Dispo received a call from two taipans who wanted to join his venture. So while Dispo was willing to pay for everything out of his own pocket, he now has a chance to apply his underwriting expertise and split the cost three-ways. One of the taipans is interested in inserting subtle advertising into the movie.

Of course, the investment banker is hopeful that his OFW movie will be just as well received as “Heneral Luna,” which was bankrolled by businessman Fernando Ortigas. Doris Dumlao-Abadilla

CEB’s bond offer

BUDGET carrier Cebu Pacific will soon go to the market to raise fresh funds for its refleeting program. The airline operator plans to issue P15 billion worth of seven- and 10-year corporate bonds in the local market. It is a good time for the exercise as the downturn in the commodity cycle has slashed aviation fuel costs, boosting profitability.

The Gokongwei-led carrier has mandated BDO Capital, BPI Capital and First Metro Investment Corp. to arrange the bond foray. Doris Dumlao-Abadilla

Debuting Belmont

A NEW 480-room business-class hotel—the first under the Megaworld group’s in-house brand “Belmont”—is set to open its doors to the public on Thursday at integrated leisure complex Resorts World Manila (RWM) in Newport City across from the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) Terminal 3. The new hotel will also be become an initial gateway linking Newport City to the airport.

An airconditioned walkway directly linked to the airport terminal is now under construction—one that will allow airport passengers waiting for their flights or those with long layover to access Newport City on foot. Initially, this walkway will go through Belmont Hotel, which the group hopes to boost not only the hotel’s occupancy but also to the soon-to-open, quaint Cafe Belmont at the hotel’s ground level.

The 10-storey Belmont Hotel will also have its own roof deck pool and lounge bar with a panoramic view of the airport runway and the colorful sights of Resorts World Manila.

The launch of Belmont is in line with property tycoon Andrew Tan’s goal to become the country’s biggest hotel property developer by 2020 with a 12,000-room portfolio by that time. As for the Belmont brand, two more hotel properties are under construction, one in Boracay and another in Cebu.

Tan’s first homegrown hotel brand is Richmonde Hotel, which now operates in three locations: Eastwood City, Ortigas and Iloilo.

Under Travelers International Hotel Group, the international hotel brands already operating in Resorts World Manila are Marriott Hotel, Maxims Hotel and Remington Hotel. Soon to open are Hilton and Sheraton. Doris Dumlao-Abadilla

Telco ad war

TEMPERATURES aren’t only rising because of the harsh El Niño phenomenon. The telco war scene is sizzling and lately, things might be getting a tad personal.

The newest flashpoint is the recent string of advertisements under Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co.’s “choose better” campaign for unit Sun Cellular.

On the surface, it looked like the usual competition to us. But rival Globe Telecom wasn’t too happy and it recently filed a complaint with the leaders of the Ad Standards Council, the Philippine Association of National Advertisers and the Association of Accredited Advertising Agencies (Philippines).

Biz Buzz obtained a copy of the letter, dated Oct. 1, 2015, that basically said the ASC Code of ethics in the telco business “has seriously deteriorated” as it cited this latest campaign by Sun.

Singled out was one particular ad with an apparent “look alike” of Globe’s CEO Ernest Cu. Globe also didn’t like the fact that the character “outrageously uttered” the word “wonderful,” “which is being used by Globe in all its campaigns since 2013.”

We’ve seen the ad and we weren’t sure it was Cu. So Biz Buzz reached out to the Globe CEO who, let’s admit, is a much better-dressed fellow than his TV double. Cu insisted it was indeed him but said that there were no hard feelings.

Apparently, others in the company felt differently and Globe, in its letter, said it found ASC “remiss in its duty to police these actions at the screening level.”

We’ve seen both companies wage this kind of war before—and that’s just with the current duopoly.

Wait till San Miguel Corp. and Australia’s Telstra finalize their partnership and shake things up here with what SMC branded as a “better” network. SMC president Ramon Ang or his “double” might soon be making his TV debut as well. Miguel R. Camus

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TAGS: Candelaria, Cebu Pacific, Ernest Cu, John Arcilla, local government units, mining, mining firms, Philippine mining industry, Resorts World Manila, Sun cellular, Zambales
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