Biz buzz

/ 12:17 AM January 02, 2017

Unimplemented reforms

Remember the foreign exchange liberalization policies unveiled by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas in 2016 in the wake of the money laundering scandal that rocked the international financial system?


The new policies agreed upon by the BSP and the Bankers Association of the Philippines as a result of Bangladesh Bank cyberheist were supposed to make the mainstream banking system more attractive to foreign funds, thus eliminating the need for businessmen to go through hard-to-track money changers (who may or may not be hiding illicit fund flows).

Well, months after those policies were announced, local bankers are perplexed as to why they have not been implemented yet. You read that correctly. Month’s after the liberalization scheme was made public, they have yet to be implemented.


Basically, we’re talking about the move to allow Filipino individuals buy as much as $500,000 from banks without the need for supporting documentation other than basic application forms. Companies, meanwhile, were supposed to be allowed to buy as much as $1 million from banks under the same scheme. (Previously, individuals and corporations could only buy $120,000 from banks under a no-questions-asked regime). The rationale of the move was that if the legitimate dollar needs of companies and individuals could be accommodated within the formal banking system, it would be easier to monitor fund flows. And, just maybe, the market will slowly gravitate away from money changers where some of the hanky panky happens.

But since bankers were complaining that the BSP had yet to formalize these policies, Biz Buzz asked around and traced the delay to one particular unit —in fact, one particular official —at the central bank who seems to be sitting on the issue, despite the move having already been approved by the Monetary Board in August 2016.

Officially, the policies are being “studied, reviewed and fine tuned,” but bankers have another theory to explain the delay: Perhaps some officials simply refuse to give up the level of control—the power—they are used to having over the market. So will we ever see those policies implemented anytime in the new year? Who knows? —DAXIM L. LUCAS


With flying colors

Pilot and businessman Ben Hur Gomez—who founded one of the most successful flying schools in the country today, Omni Aviation—gave his final bow to the local aviation industry last week, ending his stint as president and CEO of Island Aviation, an outfit better known for flying the country’s elite to their holidays in swanky and exclusive Amanpulo in Palawan.

Even at 85 years of age, however, the former Philippine Airlines 747 captain said he was in full possession of his faculties, and was looking forward to his retirement in Pampanga.


After flying the 747 for 12 years, Gomez rose to become PAL’s vice president for safety and security before retiring in 1991.

He then founded Omni Aviation with a few business partners, leasing a lahar-stricken strip of land beside the runways of Clark International Airport, and starting a “mom and pop” flying school with three Cessna 152 trainers, a Piper Cherokee and a twin-engined Beech Baron.

Due in part to its excellent safety record—one of the best in the industry—Omni grew to accommodate a few hundred students, until it was acquired after 18 years by First Asia Venture Capital of businessman Saturnino Belen Jr. (who later brought in shipping magnate Doris Magsaysay-Ho as co-owner).

Omni now has 25 aircraft and is a full-service flying school. Before divesting himself of his shares in it, Gomez negotiated for and helped acquire a 95-hectare property in Concepcion, Tarlac, where a new runway will be built for its flight operations when its lease for the Clark property expires in 2019.

After Omni, Gomez went to work for A. Soriano Aviation, which was later renamed to Island Aviation. It’s three Dornier 228 German-made turboprops are used to regularly ferry VIPs between Manila and the resort island of Amanpulo.

Amanpulo regulars need not worry though. He will be replaced at Island Aviation by another PAL veteran, Julio Hernandez who was, in fact, Gomez’ protege, having been the chief pilot of the airline’s 737 fleet in the 1990s.

Looking back at his career, Gomez is proud of his enviable flight record: 40 years of flying, totaling over 33,000 flight hours without a single accident.

“And I never missed a flight in my life, and I never refused a flight all that time,” he told Biz Buzz. “When there’s a typhoon alert, I was always the first to report to flight operations to fly the aircraft for relocation, while other pilots would hide.”

Most importantly, Gomez leaves behind an impressive flying legacy. His son retired only last month as captain of the Airbus A330 with PAL, while his two grandchildren are also flying as second officers with the flag carrier.

Good job, sir. —DAXIM L. LUCAS

Dividend debate

When dividends from winning tickets in horse racing are left unclaimed, where will the money go? Will it revert to the racing operator or will they be forfeited by the government via the Philippine Racing Commission (PRC)?

This is an issue that Manila Jockey Club Inc. has brought to court and has been resolved in its favor.

The PRC issued in early 2015 a resolution providing that all dividends from winning tickets and refunds should be paid to the holder on the same day of the event. Those unclaimed on the same day may be collected from the racing club within the next twenty 20 working days. Beyond 20 days, PRC ruled that unclaimed dividends should be considered forfeited in favor of a charitable institution or for such purposes related to the development of horse racing and other related matters to be determined by its board.

In 2013, Manila Jockey Club filed a petition for declaratory relief before the Regional Trial Court of Bacoor, Cavite. The club argued that there’s no law authorizing the PRC, the Games and Amusement Board, and any other government agency to control the disposition of unclaimed dividends—and that these should instead part of MJCI’s private funds.

The RTC of Bacoor has granted the petition for declaratory relief and declared that unclaimed dividends are private funds of the club.

It is stipulated in the betting tickets of MJCI that winning tickets must be claimed within 30 days from date of purchase. Otherwise, prize thereof shall be forfeited in favor of MJCI. —DORIS DUMLAO-ABADILLA

PLDT’s change of plans

When the going gets tough, you consider building a new headquarters at another time.

That appears to be the case with telco giant PLDT Inc., which is hoping to reverse declining earnings in recent years starting 2017.

PLDT chair and CEO Manuel V. Pangilinan said that to be sidelined—for now—was a plan to build a new campus-style office inspired by the headquarters of Silicon Valley’s tech giants.

The PLDT group has offices in Makati, although its presence there is anchored by the Ramon Cojuangco Building and the adjacent Makati General Office, occupied by its affiliates.

The plan was to sell or redevelop that area, while building a new P10-billion headquarters in a potential location in Southern Metro Manila, such as Alabang, within three years.

Pangilinan said that plan would remain on the backburner now as the telco executed a turnaround strategy.

This, of course, comes as a relief, especially for the group’s many employees who live in the northern part of Metro Manila, or even beyond. For them, the coming years will be many things, but perhaps, not a time to seek new living arrangements. —MIGUEL R. CAMUS

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TAGS: Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, Bangladesh Bank, Bankers Association of the Philippines, BSP, cyberheist, financial system, foreign funds, illicit funds, liberalization, Liberalization policies
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