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BIZ BUZZ: Martin’s media moves

/ 04:30 AM June 27, 2022

Incoming House Speaker Martin Romualdez is intent on growing his own media empire and will soon take his operations—originally centered in Tacloban City—to the national stage.

More importantly, he has a publicly listed vehicle in the form of Prime Media Holdings Inc. to bring additional capital from would-be partners into the venture when the time comes to deploy resources for the planned expansion.

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Over the weekend, Prime Media said it was in the process of implementing a memorandum of agreement with Philippine Collective Media Corp. (PCMC) to formalize its media and broadcasting venture, following the memorandum of understanding that was signed last year.

According to the firm, PCMC was established in 2008 in Tacloban and currently airs under the FMR (Favorite Music Radio) brand.

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Romualdez was able to obtain a national broadcast franchise from Congress for this outfit in 2020 and, as a result of that, it now airs via Cignal Channel 317 with radio stations in Tacloban (Ormoc, Borongan, Calbayog, Catbalogan) Baguio, Cagayan, Occidental Mindoro, Catanduanes, Bacolod, Camiguin, Dipolog, Zamboanga Sibugay, Butuan, Davao del Norte, Iligan, Camarines Sur, Isabela and Davao de Oro.

The plans call for further expansion this year.

By the end of 2022, PCMC said it expects to hit the airwaves of Cebu, Pampanga, Mindoro, Romblon, Puerto Princesa, Nueva Vizcaya, Sorsogon, Iloilo, Bohol, Siargao, Cagayan de Oro, General Santos, Cotabato, Quezon and Albay.

Prime Media said it was also studying the possibility of launching a digital technology platform to support its television and radio channels. Aside from providing information and entertainment, there are plans for a mobile payment gateway to address services like streaming-on-demand, pay-per-view and home TV shopping.

With the congressional franchise covering both digital media and technology, Prime Media chair and president Manolito Manalo confirmed discussions with several tech companies for potential partnerships in digital infrastructure, software applications like data mining and storage, including other value-added services such as an e-wallet system.

“All possible partnerships are currently being studied, as discussions for the above-mentioned initiatives are still ongoing,” the company said.

In fact, Prime Media plans to expand its media platform with the acquisition of additional frequencies for both free TV and radio.

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To do this, the company intends to work with independent content providers for programs to air.

Biz Buzz heard that a deal with ABS-CBN Corp. for the Lopez-controlled firm to provide content that will be aired on Romualdez’ outfit is even being discussed.

Will this be a case of two families on opposite ends of the country’s political spectrum— but now led by their respective younger generations—letting bygones be bygones? Abangan!

—Daxim L. Lucas

Solution to pricey fuel

With petroleum prices rising practically every week, policymakers are once more toying with the idea of suspending the collection of excise taxes on fuel to mitigate the inflationary effects of pricey gasoline and diesel on ordinary Filipinos.

That’s understandable, of course. Except that there’s a question of where the government will get the P100 billion in annual revenues that will be lost if the tax is suspended. And everyone knows that that money is badly needed for the state’s social and infrastructure programs, especially now that the economy is trying to bounce back from the pandemic.

But, being acutely aware of this dilemma, San Miguel Corp. president and CEO Ramon Ang has a novel suggestion for the incoming administration to consider.

Ang is, of course, the chair of Petron Corp., which is the country’s largest petroleum refiner and retailer, so he knows whereof he speaks.

Ang believes that, instead of suspending fuel excise taxes, the government should instead temporarily suspend the provision of the Biofuels Act of 2006 that requires the local petroleum industry to sell fuel mixed with up to 10 percent ethanol for unleaded gas and 2 percent for diesel.

Why? Apparently, the local sugar industry is having production shortfalls and isn’t even producing enough for the domestic sugar market. As such, the local petroleum industry has to import expensive ethanol from countries like Brazil just to comply with the law.

Suspending this provision of the Biofuels Act will immediately reduce—albeit temporarily—pump prices by at least P5 per liter, he said.

Sensible proposal? Definitely. But will policymakers have political will to push it forward? We’ll see.

—Daxim L. Lucas

New MAP president

Former Public Works Secretary Rogelio “Babes” Singson has been named the new president of the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP), one of the most influential business groups in the country.

This makes Singson the 74th president of the MAP, who will succeed Alfredo Pascual and finish the latter’s term until end-December.

Pascual, who assumed the top MAP post in December last year, was named the next secretary of the Department of Trade and Industry in the incoming Marcos Jr. administration.

Currently, Singson sits as president and CEO of Metro Pacific Water (MPW), the wholly owned water infrastructure investments subsidiary of Pangilinan-led Metro Pacific Investments Corp (MPIC).

He also serves as president of MPW units Metro Iloilo Bulk Water Supply Corp., Metro Pacific Iloilo Water and Metro Pacific Dumaguete Water Services, and director of Laguna Water District Aquatech Resources Corp., Eco-System Technologies International and Manila Water Consortium.

Before moving to MPIC, Singson served as president and CEO of Meralco PowerGen Corp., the power generation business of Manila Electric Co. and Light Rail Manila Corp.

He led the Department of Public Works and Highways from 2010 to 2016 under the administration of the late President Benigno Aquino III.

—Jordeene B. Lagare INQ

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