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Biz Buzz: Hopes rekindled

/ 12:40 AM August 26, 2016

Gaming technology provider Philweb Corp. saw a glimmer of hope from President Duterte’s fresh pronouncement that he would allow online gaming under certain conditions, such as payment of taxes and appropriate distance from schools or churches.  Shares of Philweb surged by 50 percent while shares of bingo operator Leisure & Resort advanced by 49.86 percent.

“On behalf of the 5,000 employees and the many small- and medium-scale entrepreneurs who operate the network of e-Games outlets, Philweb is truly thankful to hear President Duterte’s statements,” said Philweb president Dennis Valdes.  “We have always diligently paid all our taxes and all our outlets conform with Philippine Amusement & Gaming Corp.’s regulations, so we are hopeful we can soon approach Pagcor to seek a new license to operate.”

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On Philweb’s mobile lottery project proposal with Pagcor, Willy Ocier, chair of Pacific Online Systems Corp. (LOTO) , the gaming technology provider of Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO), has an unsolicited advice.

“I commend Dennis for thinking out of the box in order to save his company,” Ocier said. “As a courtesy, the mobile lotto proposal should be presented to PCSO as it already operates various lottery games to raise funds for charity. The Department of Justice should also be consulted for an updated opinion on whether Pagcor can regulate online lotteries.”

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With more than 100 million cell phones and 1.5 billion text messages sent per day, Valdes had said it was not difficult to see the advantage of Pagcor Text Bonaza over PCSO’s lotto system. On Ocier’s suggestion, Valdes said Philweb would seek guidance first from Pagcor. “They’re the boss,” he said. Doris Dumlao-Abadilla

P1.3-B Luisita question

THERE is a P1.3-billion question hanging over the Hacienda Luisita estate of the Cojuangco family.

Some farmers at the vast sugar plantation in Tarlac want Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano to uphold an earlier order by the Supreme Court not to convert or reclassify some 500 hectares of Hacienda Luisita, previously declared as industrial in nature, back into agricultural land.

You heard it right. These farmers want a large portion of the estate to stay industrial. That’s because having it classified as industrial land means potentially bigger monetary benefits for the farmer-beneficiaries.

The Supreme Court has denied with finality in 2012 the contention to include the 500 hectares in question in the conversion. But soon after this, another group of would-be beneficiaries asked the Department of Agrarian Reform to revoke that conversion order, although no action was taken by the department.

A few days after Mariano took office, however, that group (aligned with the Leftist movement, we were told) revived its petition to convert the industrial property back into agricultural—an idea the DAR chief is now entertaining. The downside, of course, is that agricultural land is worth a lot less, in peso terms, than industrial land and this will result in sharply lower benefits for the farmer-beneficiaries.

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That 500 hectares in question is worth an estimated P1.3 billion (owed to the farmer beneficiaries by the Cojuangco family). The industrialized portion of Luisita also creates employment for thousands of farmers. All that would be jeopardized if the DAR chief caves into pressure from a petition signed by 18 farmers—17 of whom have already changed their minds, we were told. Daxim L. Lucas

Skyway. Right of way.

A LOT of emphasis has been placed on short-term traffic solutions in Metro Manila, and rightfully so, given worsening road congestion issues we see today. But long-term solutions matter as well, given the way the future seems to morph into the present at a rather rapid pace.

One such long-term solution is the Metro Manila Skyway Stage 3, otherwise known as the first of two North-South connector tollroads. (The other project is controlled by Metro Pacific Investments, and its delays at the hands of government have been well documented).

San Miguel’s expressway will link Sen. Gil Puyat Ave. in Makati City to Balintawak, Quezon City via a 14.8-kilometer tollroad.

The problem? The same one plaguing almost all infrastructure projects, which is right of way. On paper, the Skyway Stage 3 should be done by 2017 but we’re hearing it could take much longer than that—maybe even beyond 2019.

The right of way headaches, in fact, were so massive that San Miguel asked the help of the Department of Public Works and Highways in resolving these during the Aquino administration.

Unlike some other tollroads, taking the lead in this project was the Toll Regulatory Board, which is under the Department of Transportation.

Last we heard was there was no action yet on that request for DPWH, which is better equipped, to handle these issues. Maybe that should get some attention, and sooner rather than later. Miguel R. Camus

New Maybank brokerage chief

AFTER the early retirement of Lorenzo Andres “Randy” Roxas as chair and president of Maybank ATR Kim Eng Securities, another Lorenzo has been enlisted to run the brokerage house.

Veteran stockbroker Lorenzo Sixto “Chicho” Lichauco has been enlisted by the Maybank group to run its brokerage house in the Philippines. He will assume the post on Sept. 1, marking his return to the stockbrokerage business.

Lichauco, who was most recently a first vice president at Security Bank Corp., was previously senior vice president for asset management group at the Government Service and Insurance System (2010). From 2002 to 2010, he was a director at Philippine Equity Partners.

He has a vast experience heading various foreign brokerage houses in the last three decades.  He was chief representative of HSBC Securities (1997 to 2001) and Credit Lyonnais Securities (1996 to 1997) and was managing director at Crosy UBP Securities (1994-1996).  He was the youngest brokerage house chief when he was president of Peregrine Securities Philippines Inc. from 1989 to 1994.

Suffice to say, Maybank has found a veteran navigator of financial market cycles to run the Philippine unit. Doris Dumlao-Abadilla

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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