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Dennis Uy’s growing empire

How do you build an empire? You start with a name.

And what’s in a name? For Dennis Uy, the name can spell the difference between success and failure.

Over dinner at Restaurant 101 in his newly acquired Enderun Colleges, Dennis or DAU — as many in the business community know him — narrated the story of how his Phoenix Petroleum was able to compete with the Goliaths of the oil industry.

 He simply asked someone from the creative industry to come up with a name that would be able to compete with The Big Three and would stand out among independent oil players.

He couldn’t do it himself because the best he could think of was Gas Boy, he said with a laugh.

And so Phoenix was born.

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Udenna, his holding company, is the Greek word for handsome, he said, jokingly again. In truth, it is a word play of his name Dennis A. Uy.

 Chelsea, his logistics company, is named after his eldest daughter Chelsea Denise. There’s a vessel, too, named after Chelsea.

His youngest, the only son, is named Charles Dennison or Dennis’ son.

Indeed, Dennis is particular with names. He doesn’t stop until he gets the best one.

“There’s a reason for every change in name,” he said during dinner as he explained how he ended up with “Phoenix” after earlier naming his oil business “Davao Oil Terminal and Oil Link.”

And the rest as they say is history.

 Today, Uy’s empire — it may be premature, but it’s really looking a lot like an empire with acquisitions left and right — is growing fast.

He likes to wax philosophical about life when people ask him about his secrets to success. He says it has a lot to do with timing and knowing the right opportunities.

 He doesn’t like hospitals and funerals. He just wants the “happy ones.”

In Chinese mythology, the phoenix reigns over all the birds. The sighting of the phoenix means that a wise leader has ascended and a new era has begun.

There’s no doubt it is Uy’s time now. I once told him that it’s the golden age of Dennis Uy, but he shrugged off the label and simply smiled.

 Phoenix is a good name indeed. And his timing is impeccable.  He has a business acumen you don’t see in others.

But of course, in this land of mayhem, it also helps that Uy is one of President Duterte’s favorite tycoons.

Coal tax wars

The country’s environmentalists welcomed the increase in coal taxes, saying it would help advance renewable energy in the country.

While the rate was lower than the P300 per metric ton as originally proposed, the anti-coal groups said the tax hike is a good start.

“While not enough, the coal tax hike sets the stage nonetheless towards genuine competition in the energy sector,” says Red Constantino, executive director of the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities (ICSC).

The bicameral conference committee agreed to increase the coal excise tax under the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) bill, from its current rate of P10 per metric ton to P50 to P150 per metric ton over the next three years.

It’s a long overdue increase, he adds.

“This long overdue increase in the coal excise tax is a welcome start in signaling investors that the Philippines is ready to transition to cheaper and more reliable energy which happens to be cleaner.”

But Constantino is worried. He observes it seems there are moves by some lawmakers to retain the tax exemption on locally produced coal.

“It seems they are trying to pull a fast one,” he said, referring to the local coal industry.

If this happens, he says, it would defeat the purpose of higher coal taxes.

However, coal industry players said the coal tax is unfair and that prices of electricity would go up.

DMCI Holdings chairman Isidro Consunji likewise say the tax should cover all types of fuel and not just coal, which is used for coal-fired power plants.

“Otherwise, it will be unfair and discriminatory,” said Consunji. DMCI subsidiary Semirara Mining and Power Corp., is the country’s largest oil producer, serving the needs of power plants and cement companies in the country.

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