BIZ BUZZ: Overbearing LGU mayor | Inquirer Business

BIZ BUZZ: Overbearing LGU mayor

/ 02:02 AM August 19, 2022

When President Marcos announced during his first State of the Nation Address that there would be no more lockdowns moving forward, businesses were so happy that finally, economic reopening will continue and livelihoods will stabilize. The resumption of in-person classes added to the optimism.

However, there seems to be some overzealous local government units (LGUs) that insist on their own guidelines that are not in sync with the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases.

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Take the case of this mayor in a city in Mindanao who issued a rule requiring that all establishments may operate at full capacity provided that all employees and customers present proof of COVID-19 booster jabs before entering any such establishments.

The city, just like Metro Manila, is already operating under alert level 1, which supposedly relaxes a lot of the mobility protocols.

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Based on the framework issued by the mayor, those who will not comply with the city’s vaccination program will be required to present RT-PCR test results (and they do not come cheap, especially for small business owners) every 15 days, which will be valid for 72 hours before entering the workplace, establishments, industries and academe.

The order naturally raised eyebrows among some merchants. A businessman engaged in retail trade pointed out that these requirements were not in line with the Department of Health protocols. Requiring proof of booster shots (or third jab)—which is unheard of even in establishments in Metro Manila—is tantamount to “abuse of authority,” the businessman argued.

These days, most establishments in the National Capital Region do not even ask for any proof of vaccination anymore, but mostly just require temperature screening. Some elite establishments and events organizers require antigen testing, but provide their own nurse and testing kits at the door.

Must the rules differ in faraway fiefdoms?

“We are going back to the disarray of 2.5 years ago, between national government and LGU,” said the businessman.

Everyone wants to remain prudent when it comes to COVID-19 management, and rightfully so, but to recover after being in the doldrums for two years, businesses hope that there will be policy consistency across the land. As such, they hope that the national government would keep in check LGUs that are either overzealous or overlenient.

—Doris Dumlao-Abadilla

New boss at Alphaland

The announcement earlier this month that Dennis Valdes would retire from Alphaland Corp. and other firms controlled by his uncle, business tycoon Roberto Ongpin, came as a bit of a surprise to company insiders.

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But Valdes—whose job included running the posh Balesin Island Club resort—had expressed his desire to retire early, Biz Buzz heard. Specifically, he wanted to “follow the footsteps of his elder brother” and “retire while healthy and still able to enjoy life.”

On Wednesday, Ongpin announced to his friends and members of Balesin that he had already found a replacement. And he didn’t have to look very far. Starting next month, Alphaland will have a new president in the person of lawyer Rodolfo Ma. “Pong” Ponferrada who will be “rejoining” the group.

If that name sounds familiar, it’s because the lawyer worked for Ongpin starting way back in 2006, and stayed on for a decade as general counsel, rising to executive vice president before his departure. As the company lawyer, he was instrumental in defending the billionaire businessman from charges leveled at him during the Aquino administration. The charges were eventually dismissed.

“Pong graduated from the Ateneo de Manila University in 1997 with a degree of Bachelor of Science in Management (Honors Program), magna cum laude,” Ongpin beamed in his letter. “He then went on to University of the Philippines to take his law degree, where he graduated cum laude and valedictorian in 2001. He topped the bar exams in 2001.”

Hopefully, Ponferrada’s time at the helm of Alphaland and its luxury leisure resort properties (like Baguio Mountain Lodges and the new island resort being developed near Balesin) will be more relaxing than his previous engagement with the group. Hopefully, his legal skills will not be called into service too much this time around.

—Daxim L. Lucas

Travel protection platform

As the reopening of borders rekindle consumers’ long-suppressed wanderlust, BDO Insure, a unit of local banking giant BDO Unibank, has heated up competition to provide insurance for traveling Pinoys.

BDO Insure launched an online channel to provide tourists with protection against financial loss due to medical emergencies and other covered unexpected events, such as canceled trips and lost baggage incurred during trips. BDO Insurance’s online platform—accessible using any mobile device, laptop or desktop computer—also offers COVID-19 coverage.

“We assure Filipino travelers that BDO Insure, as their insurance broker, will be with them every step of the way, from purchasing the travel insurance to claiming its benefits, so they can just focus on their business trip or vacation,” said Ma. Theresa Tan, general manager of BDO Insure.

While for some destinations it’s but an option for travelers, some jurisdictions require travel insurance as part of visa application.

—Doris Dumlao-Abadilla

Revenge performance

The Philippine economy continues to face various headwinds hampering its growth. The narrative last year was about COVID-19-related lockdowns preventing businesses from growing and for this year, it’s about the persisting surge of prices of goods.

As banks are considered as a cyclical sector, one could think they are not performing well given the state of the economy today. However, this seems not to be the case for Security Bank.

Security Bank recently reported that it earned P6.2 billion in the first half of 2022, doubling the P3.1 billion it reported in the same period last year. It reported a second-quarter net income of P3.5 billion, which is 139 percent higher from the year-ago period and 29 percent higher from the previous quarter.

Interestingly, the figure for the first half of 2022 is almost equal to the P6.9 billion profit the bank reported for the entire 2021.

The full-year 2021 figures may not look pleasing to investors and management, with net interest income dropping by 10 percent and non-interest income plunging by 53 percent. In addition to that, the bank recorded a one-time charge of P1.2 billion on deferred taxes.

The data may spur skeptics questioning Security Bank’s long-term prospects. However, the latest financial performance clearly indicates the bank is roaring back with strength and is coming with vengeance against its critics.

Net interest income for the first half of the year grew by 6 percent to P14.4 billion. With the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas set to continue aggressively hiking interest rates to fight off inflation, the bank is set to generate a higher net interest margin from the loans it lends out.

The bank continues to enjoy a healthy balance sheet, with the gross nonperforming loan ratio ticking down on a quarterly basis to 3.28 percent from 3.65 percent. To show that Security Bank is seeing fewer bad loans, it only set aside P408 billion in loss provisions for the first half of 2022—a plunge from P2.4 billion from the same period last year.

With its latest financial performance, Security Bank emphasizes that you need not be the biggest to be among the best.

—Daxim L. Lucas

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TAGS: Alphaland, BDO, Biz Buzz, local government units (LGUs)
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