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BIZ BUZZ: San Miguel’s lessons learned

/ 04:10 AM September 27, 2021

There has been a long-running debate in social media and beyond over the claims of President Duterte and some of his officials that traffic in Metro Manila—Edsa in particular—had been solved.

It’s an amusing, uhm, discussion most of the time because the traffic problem is far from being solved and any significant decrease in vehicular volume has more to do with the raging pandemic than new roads.

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As it turns out, billionaire Ramon Ang has a similar view and he’s not afraid to say it in public events, such as the groundbreaking of the Pasig River Expressway (PAREx) last week.

Sharing the stage with Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade and Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Ang called Metro Manila’s traffic “one of the worst in the world.”

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“Because of this, we are losing billions of pesos of business opportunities every year,” Ang said.

The statement went unchallenged, of course, and Ang probably wasn’t making any kind of political statement in the first place.

He was drumming up support for PAREx, a P95-billion mega infrastructure project that would rise along the banks of the Pasig River.

Ang said the 19.4-kilometer PAREx would traverse the east to west corridor of Metro Manila, cutting the driving time from Marikina to Makati to 10 minutes from over two hours before the pandemic.

It would also be integrated with San Miguel Corp.’s (SMC) equally massive Skyway 3 expressway.

SMC seems to have learned key lessons from building Skyway 3 when it came up with PAREx. In particular, the idea to build a massive expressway along the banks of the Pasig, thereby minimizing costly and time-consuming right-of-way delivery.

Right-of-way is the responsibility of the government. But as SMC learned in Skyway 3, this was a process that takes a very long time.

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The conglomerate ended up paying for right-of-way expenses, including buying properties at market value and shouldering the cost to build new bridges, to hurry things along.

It might be a creative solution for engineers but this approach is also one of the most controversial aspects of PAREx.

Despite its name, the expressway is not a friend to everyone and it has lured opposition from environment and conservation advocates. The PAREx has a big footprint so advocates possess important views and insights in addressing issues on sustainability.

At the same time, SMC has adjusted the initial design of PAREx to include busways, bike lanes and pedestrian paths. It has also rolled out a separate cleanup of the Pasig and nearby bodies of water in Marikina up to Laguna to address perennial flooding.

It’s clear SMC has learned the lessons of the past, and it wants to apply those lessons fast. —Miguel R. Camus

‘Torre Emperador’ in Spain

Global liquor producer Emperador has staked its claim to a piece of Madrid’s skyline. The 57-story skyscraper Torre Espacio bought by tycoon Andrew Tan in the Spanish capital six years ago has been renamed “Torre Emperador.”

Tan, who picked up a string of assets in Europe after the PIIGS (the European economic crisis that swept across Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece and Spain) episode, paid 558 million euros (around P33 billion) for this 23-meter building as a personal investment back in 2015.

The building is located in Cuatro Torres Business Area along Paseo de la Castellana, one of the most modern and prime locations for commercial real estate in Madrid and home to four of its tallest and most iconic skyscrapers.

With a leasable area of 60,142 square meters, Torre Emperador has been spruced up last year in a 1.5-million euro renovation project that was meant to adapt its services to clients and fit out an entire floor for coworking spaces. The tower is home to the embassies of Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom, the Spanish Banking Association and global infrastructure group OHLA, among others.

As its name suggests, it is also home to the corporate headquarters of Emperador in Spain. Etching its name on this property affirms its global positioning, being the largest brandy producer in the world and a key player in the whisky business. Its brandy and whisky products are available in more than 100 countries.

Fundador Spanish Brandy de Jerez and Whyte & Mackay, the world’s fifth largest Scotch whisky producer, are among Emperador’s overseas businesses.

Meanwhile, Tan isn’t done picking up offshore assets. Aside from Torre Emperador, he also owns the iconic Torre Diagonal in Barcelona. Another property is set to be launched in the coming weeks. —Doris Dumlao-Abadilla

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