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Biz Buzz: DoE by remote control

/ 02:53 AM January 16, 2012

With rumors rife that Energy Secretary Rene Almendras is about to be appointed secretary to the Cabinet, word is now going around that his replacement at the energy department has been chosen as well.

Well, at least this official is his choice and not quite yet the President’s, we’re told.

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According to at least two reliable sources, Energy Undersecretary Ina Asirit is Almendras’ personal choice to head the Department of Energy once he is “promoted” to Malacañang to take over the task of quarterbacking P-Noy’s Cabinet (which, among others, seems to be floundering on the economic front).

Described by many observers as “capable,” Asirit has often stood in for Almendras in key meetings and presentations, including some in Malacañang. She hails from Cebu (Almendras’ former home base when he was still with the Aboitiz group) and previously served in the Department of Tourism under then Secretary Ace Durano (another Cebuano).

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We’re told that one reason why Almendras is insisting on Asirit’s appointment as a DoE OIC of sorts as a precondition for his acceptance of the Secretary to the Cabinet post is so that he can continue to run the key department via remote control.

Oh, and another thing: Asirit is also Almedras’ niece, according to our sources.—Daxim L. Lucas

SCTEx roadblock

The deadline or “long stop” date for the closing of the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEx) concession deal between the government and the Metro Pacific group lapses Monday without fulfilling the last (but not the least) requirement—Malacañang’s imprimatur.

If a conditional contract is not consummated by the long stop date, a contract is usually deemed terminated. The delay in the Office of the President’s approval of the SCTEx deal has thus caused some jitters especially because it’s been half a year past since the concession was awarded … and after a tedious renegotiation at that.

But we hear that the Bases Conversion and Development Authority will extend the “long stop” date to accommodate further scrutiny of the contract terms. And what’s taking P-Noy’s office too long? A government source privy to the transaction said the country’s chief executive simply wanted to be extremely careful in validating the terms. But the government isn’t keen on drawing up a new contract, much less conducting a rebidding. (Corporate rival San Miguel group was likewise going after this toll road).

“Negotiations are over. It’s just a matter of reviewing it further,” the source said.

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The Departments of Finance, Transportation and Communications, and Trade and Industry have already endorsed the contract to P-Noy. “We are expecting OP [Office of the President] approval to come soon,” the source said.

After a similar delay in the closing of PLDT’s takeover of Digitel, businessman Manuel V. Pangilinan is getting used to a lot of waiting these days. But after losing out to a number of toll-road buyout deals in the Southern Luzon corridor, he’s expected to fight tooth and nail for North Luzon.—Doris C. Dumlao

Wooing Miriam

No, not Sen. Miriam Santiago. Instead, Ayala Land Inc. is close to finalizing a deal to bring in Miriam College to set up a campus in its eco-city Nuvali in Laguna. To attract reputable educational institutions, Nuvali is of course either donating land or selling them at subsidized rates. In the case of Miriam, it will set up a 15-hectare campus, a portion of which will be paid for by the school and another portion to be donated by the Ayalas. Miriam is expected to offer primary through tertiary levels in various phases.

Xavier School, a premier school for Chinoys, is already set to open a co-ed campus in Nuvali this June, initially offering four levels from kindergarten to grade three but eventually expanding to high school level. The first phase of development of the 15-hectare campus, which is twice bigger than its main campus in San Juan, is now 90-percent complete. Apart from accepting girls for the first time, Xavier School Nuvali will allot 25 percent of its slots to those who can otherwise not afford to enroll in this school.

Everest Academy, run by the Rome-based Legionaries of Christ, is likewise setting up a campus in Nuvali. This will be its second in the country after its first campus in Bonifacio Global City.—Doris C. Dumlao

A Sy building that’s not a mall

The Sy family may own the National University, but that didn’t prevent them from donating a substantial amount to another educational institution.

In fact, SM Investments Corp. recently gave a hefty sum to De La Salle University for the construction of the Henry Sy Sr. Centennial Hall, named after the retail and property group’s chair and founder.

The structure, we’re told, will be built within La Salle’s Taft Ave. campus (that they found space for yet another building in the crowded campus is a feat in itself) and will house a research center and a high-tech library in a one million-book Learning Commons (making it possibly the country’s largest collection of educational materials in a university).

Of course, there is history between the Sy family and DLSU since all of the Sy sons are graduates of the university (Henry Jr. and Herbert with degrees in business management; Hans with mechanical engineering; and Harley with management of financial institutions).

Oh, the amount of the donation? A cool P300 million.—Daxim L. Lucas

Tampakan conundrum

Expectedly, certain parties felt good while others felt bad that the government denied the $5.9-billion Tampakan copper-gold project an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) due to an open-pit ban in South Cotabato, one of the host provinces.

And then there are a number who simply wondered why the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) did not just hold its verdict on the ECC application until the open-pit ban was either repealed or fully implemented.

“While DENR may say it has the same effect as holding it in abeyance since Sagittarius Mines (the operating company) can resubmit, didn’t DENR consider it is sending a very negative signal, which is that DENR—tasked to implement a national law which allows open pit mining—is deferring to a local government unit which has issued … an unconstitutional ordinance?” one industry stakeholder complained.

Others wondered what happened to previous proclamations by Natural Resources Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje, in several media interviews and in mining fora, that the government would do “whatever it takes” to implement the project.

Yet another reader did not ask what the big deal was, but rather, “What’s the real deal?”

Your guess, folks, is as good as ours.—Riza Olchondra

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TAGS: appointments, De La Salle University, Department of Energy, donation, Mining and quarrying, Miriam College, NUVALI, Real Estate, Rene Almendras, Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEx), Sy family, toll road
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