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Record delegation size

/ 03:08 AM October 14, 2016

When faced with a President as inscrutable as Rodrigo Duterte, it is normal for the leader of the business community to want to get to know him better.

But Malacañang was probably unprepared for the avalanche of businessmen who wanted to have more quality time with him.

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Word in the business community is that the Palace has so far received expressions of interest from almost 400 businessmen to join Mr. Duterte’s state visit to China next week.

Biz Buzz heard, however, that administration officials were now trying to trim this number down because a business delegation of 400 would be—apart from unprecedented and record-breaking—simply too unwieldy for the packed schedule of the President.

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According to a source, the Palace is now trying to reduce the headcount to a maximum of 150 (which would still be a record for a business contingent, as far as state visits go).

There are, however, some business leaders whose slots are guaranteed. We’re talking about the likes of JG Summit’s Lance Gokongwei; San Miguel president Ramon Ang; SM group’s Hans Sy and SM Prime president Jeffrey Lim; PLDT chair Manuel Pangilinan, and the Ayala group’s Fernando Zobel de Ayala and Ernest Cu.

Also included in the delegation are Double Dragon’s Edgar Sia and Tony Tancaktiong (also of Jollibee); tycoon Lucio Tan; Solar Entertainment’s William Tieng; Sabin Aboitiz of the Aboitiz group, and George Barcelon of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

No problem for these captains of industry to be accredited for sure. But even with a trimmed down delegation of 150 heads, that means many of them who are accustomed to flying on business class will just have to sit in the cramped economy class—a record number of tycoons at the back of the plane. —Daxim L. Lucas

PH-China agri ties

Agriculture, we’re told, is one of the key priorities of President Duterte’s forthcoming China visit. It’s a strategic move given the relative importance of China as a market for Philippine agri commodities and vice versa.

The historic presidential visit comes at an opportune time for listed Agrinurture Inc. (ANI), a Filipino agri-trading firm owned and controlled by businessman Antonio Tiu. Barely a week ago, the agri-entrepreneur acquired a significant stake in Zongshan Fucang Trade Co. Ltd., a major rice and fruit trader based in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong.

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The P308 million or 42 million yuan purchase represents 49 percent of the total registered capital of Zongshan Fucang, a company engaged in agri commodity trading, with investments in rural real estate development, food terminals, cold storage facilities and agri trading platforms.

ANI will also get an indirect share in Shengmei Century Property Co., a real estate firm that is 51-percent owned by Zongshan Fucang. Based in Northeast China, Shengmei Century Property, has rural real estate developments valued at almost P1.5 billion.

According to Biz Buzz sources, Shengmei Century Property is about to complete by December a 75,000-square meter farmers’ depot in Xuzhou, Jiangxi province. The building, about the size of a mall with commercial space equivalent to 200 basketball courts, will be a major trading hub where farmers/suppliers can link to agri traders from different parts of the globe.

But that’s just for starters. Shengmei Century Property plans to build hundreds of such farmers’ depots throughout China over the next 10 years. It is also developing a trading platform software that can hook up farmers in China and Southeast Asia. Once operational, this could be a windfall for ANI and a boon for Philippine agri producers whose products can be exported and traded on these farmers’ depots all over China. —Daxim L. Lucas

A testy exchange

They may have served together in the Cabinet of the late President Corazon Aquino, but there seemed to be no love lost between Sen. Franklin Drilon and Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III when they faced off earlier this week for the latter’s confirmation hearing at the Senate.

Drilon served as Justice Secretary and Executive Secretary under Aquino while Dominguez served as Agriculture Secretary.

The tension seemed to build early on with Drilon asking technical questions about the debt profile of the Philippines and certain economic assumptions, to which Dominguez gave one-word answers — terse replies like “yes,” “no,” “both,” “roughly” or the uncharacteristically long “it is possible.”

But the exchange became testier when Drilon asked a lengthy question about President Duterte’s drive to shape an independent foreign policy. He pointed out that the Philippines enjoys around $3 billion worth of official development assistance from overseas, and this cheap funding source might be affected by the President’s regular rants against the US, European Union and the United Nations, among others.

Admittedly, it was a long statement from Drilon that was punctuated only at the end by a question mark. To which Dominguez replied: “Are you asking a question, sir?”

To this, Drilon expounded on his point saying that the President’s pugnacious stance may endanger this funding channel.

Dominguez replied: “I think there might be a school of thought that would say that it is not advisable to do that.”

Drilon shot back: “Do you belong to that school of thought, Mr. Secretary?”

Summoning all the diplomacy he could muster, Dominguez said “I am not the foreign affairs minister, but I would say yes, there’s some logic to what you’re saying.”

Sensing that he got his point across, Drilon offered a hint of levity saying “Sometimes, Congress can be logical.”

“All the time,” the finance chief replied, leaving people wondering whether he was being sarcastic or not.

Thankfully, the hearing ended without major sparks flying and Dominguez was confirmed by the Senate.

Those who know these two gentlemen know this wasn’t the first time they’ve crossed swords and, given that they’re now situated on opposite sides of the political fence, there’s a good chance this won’t be the last. Abangan. —Daxim L. Lucas

Fuel for elite motorists

Most people are familiar with airlines’ rewards programs where frequent flyers get perks that put them a notch above normal travelers.

Petron—the country’s largest petroleum company—is launching its version of an elite users’ program, the Petron Value Card (PVC) Titanium.

It’s a step up from its normal loyalty program offering bonus points for purchases.

Cardholders also get invites to exclusive events like concerts and free movie tickets.

But like airline loyalty programs, enjoying Petron’s Titanium program will also entail using more Petron products. How much more? A member has to have spent at least P360,000 on premium Petron fuels over the last three years or at least P10,000 a month using a single Petron value card.

That may sound a bit steep to the average motorist, but maybe not if one owns a sports car or a high-end SUV that usues Petron’s Blaze 100 fuel. —Daxim L. Lucas

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