Razon says he’s more concerned about PH infra in Asean forum
Enrique Razon Jr., the often outspoken ports and gaming tycoon, advocated some self-interest during the 31st Association of Southeast Asian Nations Summit on Monday.
At the Asean Business and Investment Summit forum on infrastructure, Razon, a panelist, said he was more “concerned about the Philippines since we have a lot do and a lot of catching up to do.”
“To be blunt about it, I’m not really concerned by what other countries are doing for themselves,” Razon, one of the country’s wealthiest individuals with a fortune estimated by Forbes Magazine at $4.4 billion, said during the forum.
Razon owns global ports operator International Container Terminal Services Inc. and Bloomberry Resorts Corp., which operates the Solaire Resort and Casino, the venue of Monday’s event.
The success of his businesses is dependent on the ease by which people and goods can move around.
“We have to really, once and for all, focus and invest in our own infrastructure,” Razon said, adding the private sector was ready to support the government.
He later quipped that big events like the Asean Summit tended to come up short in terms of concrete results.
“Asean is a good thing. One week, every year, they have these big meetings. I’ve been seeing it for the last 25 years. Everybody is united, [we have] 600 million people in the market, but the other 51 weeks, nobody does anything about it,” he said, eliciting laughter from participants.
“People just concentrate on their own business, which to me, is really what my country has to get down to doing,” Razon added.
He later told ANC that private sector players were “waiting” for the government to rollout more infrastructure projects, such as airports, roads, and railways.
He said the Department of Transportation’s plan to build a 25-kilometer subway linking Quezon City and Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport is the “most important” project in the pipeline.
The DOTr is planning to begin the construction of the subway, a P360 billion project to be funded by a loan from Japan, by the end of 2018. The Philippines’s first underground train would be partially completed by 2022, with full completion seen by 2025, the DOTr said.
“Without the subway, it’s very hard to solve any traffic and mass transport condition,” Razon said on television, comparing Manila to other large cities like New York, Tokyo and Hong Kong, which have underground train systems.
He also said it was “impossible” to quantify the benefits of new airports in terms of their impact on the economy.
This view was supported by co-panelist Tony Fernandes, founder and group CEO of Air Asia, the region’s largest budget airline.
“In terms of infrastructure, airports are very critical,” he said, adding that support infrastructure such as roads and trains were also needed to link air gateways.
Fernandes said he also supported the development of new gateways outside the capital.
“I think there’s tremendous growth in secondary and tertiary cities around Asean,” Fernandes said.
Co-panelist Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, CEO of Ayala Corp., said governments and the private sector need to “all come together” to address gaps in infrastructure.
He also noted that so-called centers of economic growth needed to get a larger slice of the spending, as people shift from rural to urban areas around the region.
“I’ve always argued that while it politically makes sense to spread development money around the country, one has to overweight centers of economic growth as well,” Zobel said. “These urban areas are really catalysts for innovative growth in many ways and need a great deal of infrastructure to support them.” /je
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.