Biz Buzz: Balikbayan box redux | Inquirer Business

Biz Buzz: Balikbayan box redux

/ 02:11 AM October 21, 2015

LAST August, the country experienced what some described as a “small-scale people power for the digital age.” That was when the online community expressed outrage at the Bureau of Customs (BOC) for increasing cargo fees and manually inspecting balikbayan boxes.

After a relentless barrage of Facebook messages, blogger rants and humorous memes, no less than President Aquino himself called Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima and Customs chief Bert Lina and told them to put an end to the erstwhile practice. Indeed, the backlash was especially fierce because the main casualties of the half-baked policies were overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).


Nevertheless, if a growing number of reports are to be believed, it looks like the BOC people did not learn their lesson the first time. Purportedly, container vans are piling up once more at the Manila Customs yard, held indefinitely by officials. The reason? A new order from the BOC powers-that-be that no containers be released until the “new tax and duty increases” are paid. When freight forwarders and brokers request for official documentation outlining this adjustment, though, they are told that it was a “verbal directive.”

True to form, part of this BOC “verbal instruction” is that all container vans should be inspected via X-ray, and then be subjected to 100-percent physical inspection. This includes inspecting all balikbayan boxes at the forwarder’s facility.


The question arises: Isn’t this in direct conflict with the specific instruction of the President himself? P-Noy gave a very clear order that physical inspections should be conducted only if there were suspicious findings from the X-ray or K-9 examinations.

Then again, this was handed down last August, before the “ber” months rolled in. The fact is, OFWs are not the only ones who need to send gifts to their loved ones. Customs officials and inspectors need to spread the cheer as well. Daxim L. Lucas

Knee-injury epidemic

THERE seems to be an epidemic of knee injuries among some of the country’s top businessmen nowadays.

For one, many people have noticed PLDT chair Manuel Pangilinan walking using a cane, no thanks to a knee injury he sustained while playing badminton several weeks ago.

We understand he requires some surgery for this, but our sources tell us the extremely busy tycoon is having some difficulty finding the time needed to have surgery overseas along with the time required for it to heal (a total of four weeks, at least, we’re told).

Meanwhile, Biz Buzz learned last week that Globe’s CEO has recently been bothered by an old knee injury (a torn anterior cruciate ligament that he chose not to have reconstructed years ago), which had been stymieing his golf game.


Finally, Ayala Corp. CEO Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala told Biz Buzz that he, too, had recent issues with his knee—an injury that eventually affected his ACL—that forced him to seek medical attention. Also joining the knee injury bandwagon, Zobel revealed, was his son who recently had ACL reconstruction surgery and… their family dog. We’re not kidding. Daxim L. Lucas

Brutally honest Razon

FILIPINO tycoon Enrique Razon Jr. is known for speaking his mind as much as for his business prowess.

Just weeks after a rather glib outlook on global economic growth, Razon took a dig at the fund management business.

Yes, lots of people rely on responsible fund managers to preserve and grow their wealth but not the global seaports and casino mogul, apparently. Razon couldn’t help himself at a business summit earlier this week and wondered out aloud “why anyone would put their money with a fund manager.”

“They charge you carried interest of 2 percent just to lose your money,” Razon told participants at the Forbes Global CEO Conference 2015, which was held in his very own Solaire Resort and Casino along Manila Bay. “And to get 2 to 4 percent returns, they are probably goosing it with tremendous leverage anyway,” he added.

That drew some chuckles from the crowd—maybe more than a few uncomfortable ones. Of course, he said more than that.

Speaking about the economic ups and downs the country has weathered, he joked there was a simple indicator on how to make money in the Philippine market: visit the “coffee shop” of any Shangri-La hotel.

“If you were the only one there, you bought the market. If it’s full and packed with fund managers talking to brokers and you couldn’t grab a table—you sold the market,” Razon quipped.

So where to park one’s money? Razon said if you liked what you see, just buy the index or an exchange traded fund. Otherwise, sell or buy a short or inverse ETF.

The billionaire has reason to be displeased. His net worth, at least on paper, has taken a hit this year alone, partly as fund managers sold down his companies. Spare no tears, though, since Forbes Magazine still estimates his “real time” fortune at a kingly $3.3 billion, meaning he’s still richer than the rest of us. Miguel R. Camus

Bracing for growth

THE ALCANTARA family’s Alsons Consolidated Resources Inc. is looking at various options to fund large-scale expansion plans, including the possibility of taking in new investors or strategic partners. Alsons, after all, has interests in capital-intensive industries like power generation, property development and mining.

We heard that Alsons had talked with ENGIE, a French utility firm interested in the local firm’s power business, but buy-in talks did not prosper. Alsons continues to explore its options and is open to new investors, a well-placed source said. If at all, the source said any new investor would come into the parent company level and the family is more likely to keep majority control.

Meanwhile, the source noted that apart from selling equity, Alsons could also choose to raise fresh funds for expansion through the issuance of debt notes.

Alsons is currently valued by the stock market at P10.5 billion. Doris Dumlao-Abadilla

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TAGS: Alsons Consolidated Resources Inc., balikbayan boxes, Bert Lina, BoC, Bureau of Customs, Cesar Purisima, Enrique Razon Jr., Manuel Pangilinan
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