BIZ BUZZ: Citing online spin, online spin master ends DOF deal | Inquirer Business
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BIZ BUZZ: Citing online spin, online spin master ends DOF deal

/ 05:26 AM July 16, 2021

Nicanor “Nic” Gabunada Jr.—President Duterte’s campaign strategist during the 2016 elections—has backed out of the consultancy contract to help the Department of Finance (DOF) in its communication campaigns after criticism on social media emerged over his supposed role behind allegedly fake accounts a couple of years back.

Asked to confirm, Gabunada told the Inquirer on Wednesday: “I did not push through with it.”

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Known to be close to Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III as they both hail from Davao, Gabunada said he had “not personally told CGD (Dominguez’s nickname) about my not signing the contract.”

“I think it is best that I will not push through with the contract. I think they (the DOF’s bids and awards committee, or BAC) understand,” Gabunada said.

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Despite the BAC’s notice of award which he already signed on June 11, Gabunada did not sign the actual contract with the DOF after news about his hiring came out.

News website Politiko broke the story with its article “Trending content ang peg? DOF hires Duterte’s campaign strategist for P909K” published on June 17—just one day after the BAC resolution dated May 24 and the notice of award were posted on the DOF’s website on June 16.

Gabunada lamented the “spin” in articles that came out the following week, which highlighted him as the operator of about 200 pro-Duterte Facebook pages and groups as well as Instagram accounts which the social media giant removed in March 2019.

Gabunada last month sent to the Inquirer a copy of the statement he released two years ago, in which he alleged that he was “singled out” as only pro-Duterte pages were taken down by Facebook “whereas the pro-opposition pages were not.”

The DOF, for its part, had defended the earlier decision to hire Gabunada as consultant-communication strategist, saying that the contract was “legal and aboveboard.”

The DOF had pointed out that “nowhere in the contract does it say that Gabunada’s work would involve setting up social media platforms.”

Had Gabunada signed the contract, he was supposed to get P909,122.40 during a six-month period starting June and ending December.

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Gabunada had told the Inquirer that it was the DOF itself which sought his service. Since the contract’s fee was below P1 million, Gabunada and the DOF had directly negotiated instead of a public bidding, which was standard procedure to procure higher-valued contracts.

Gabunada sat on the boards of the state-run United Coconut Planters Bank (UCPB) as well as its subsidiary UCPB Leasing and Finance Corp., but he had said there was no conflict of interest with the botched DOF consultancy stint.

Also, Gabunada had denied rumors that he had been a consultant at the state-run pension fund Social Security System (SSS). He had also said it was “not true” that he had been a consultant at the DOF even prior to the latest contract.

His lawyers had threatened to take legal action against those whom they claimed maliciously “[kept] bringing up the solely business prerogative of Facebook in tagging and maligning [Gabunada] and connecting it with this totally separate and aboveboard agreement” with the DOF.

—Ben O. de Vera

BPI’s future crib

Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI), the oldest bank in Southeast Asia, is building a new skyscraper at the corner of Ayala Avenue and Paseo de Roxas to serve as its future head office.

However, it may take until 2029 for the headquarter office to be completed. This means that some of its C-suite executives, including newly installed president Teodoro “TG” Limcaoco, may have retired (or not) by then.

Because of the pandemic, construction activities at this prime location have become more challenging. Once the master plan was finalized, it also turned out that tearing down the old building will take longer than originally expected. It’s something that has to be executed carefully, given that the building will rise along a bustling intersection and construction may outlive the current pandemic.

For now, BPI’s management has settled into a cozy transitory head office at Ayala North Exchange branch, a sleek development that’s part of the original portfolio of assets folded into pioneering real estate investment trust, AREIT Inc.

But once completed, the future BPI head office at its enviable location is expected to become a new icon that will reshape Makati’s skyline.

—Doris Dumlao-Abadilla

Planet-friendly

In a bid to reduce its fuel consumption and carbon footprint, leading cement-maker Holcim Philippines Inc. is fine-tuning its cement plants in the country.

Holcim is investing P210 million in projects to improve its cement plants in Bacnotan, La Union, and Lugait, Misamis Oriental. This is on top of a P121.5-million project started in January to raise the efficiency of converting qualified waste materials to alternative fuels of its cement plant in Norzagaray, Bulacan.

Holcim has tapped Sinoma CBMIPH Construction Corp. (the local unit of China- based Sinoma CBMI) to install a drying facility in La Union. The goal is to significantly reduce the fuel consumption of its plant by reusing hot gases from operations to dry materials, instead of using separate equipment.

Sinoma, which has done many other similar projects for cement firms across the globe, was likewise contracted to install a drying facility at Holcim’s Misamis Oriental plant. This is to reduce the moisture of raw materials and improve grinding operations. This will enable the plant to increase mineral additives, thus reducing carbon footprint and saving natural resources in making cement.

The La Union sustainability project is scheduled to be completed in the first quarter of 2022 while the Misamis project will be completed by end-October this year.

In Bulacan, Holcim is enabling its waste management unit under Geocycle to support the Norzagaray plant in using more qualified postconsumer and municipal solid wastes as alternative fuels instead of coal.

—Doris Dumlao-Abadilla
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TAGS: Department of Finance (DOF), Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, Nicanor “Nic” Gabunada Jr.
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