A banner year for Kapitan’s business empire

EYES WIDE OPEN - Iris Gonzales (The Philippine Star) - July 2, 2020 - 12:00am

I was really curious how 85-year old taipan Lucio Tan, who does not use a smartphone and prefers to scribble notes on small pieces of paper instead of using a laptop, would open a Zoom meeting, the annual stockholders meeting of his listed conglomerate LT Group, which was held last Tuesday.

Unfortunately for me, I only heard his voice as he did not face the camera when he delivered the chairman’s message. There was only his photo on the screen.

Just the same, he sounded fine and pleased when he delivered his short report. He had reasons to be. The conglomerate ended 2019 with a record-high profit of P23.1 billion, up 43 percent. Props to his son Michael who leads the LT Group team as president and COO, for the conglomerate’s strong performance.

“I’m pleased to tell you that 2019 was our most profitable year since our public listing seven years ago,” Kapitan, as the elder Tan is fondly called, said.

The prospects for this year, however, are dim because of the coronavirus disease 2019 or COVID-19 pandemic.

“With COVID-19, this year will be very challenging,” he said.

Thus, LT Group is taking a “guarded outlook for 2020,” Michael told the company’s stockholders, noting that sales of cigarettes through PMFTC, liquor through Tanduay and Asia Brewery’s products will likely be affected by the pandemic.

Indeed, like other businesses, 2020 poses a great challenge for Kapitan’s listed empire­­ — from a banner year to a difficult one.

LGU chiefs mark first year of office

It’s been a year ago today since our local chief executives took their oath and what a difference a year makes.

Others have been eerily quiet and still unbelievably incompetent, but some are rising to the occasion especially this year as the country battles the COVID-19 pandemic.

Even Finance Secretary Carlos “Sonny” Dominguez III cited efforts by local government units that have done well to serve and help their constituents.

He noted for instance the programs initiated by Mayor Abby Binay and the City of Makati to support its constituents and help them cope with the pandemic.

Makati City, Dominguez said, has been effective in terms of providing supplemental support to the national government’s COVID-19 response. “They have really provided very good support… So, we really appreciate that,” Dominguez said during a recent virtual Kapihan sa Manila Bay forum.

Dominguez also lauded the local initiatives of the cities of Valenzuela, Davao and Candon to support their constituents.

Supporting the national government

I can understand the finance chief’s appreciation.

The government is overwhelmed and it’s not easy to look for funding for all these COVID-19 efforts. LGUs rising to the occasion would surely help ease the national government’s burden.

Makati city, for instance, has allotted P2.7 billion for distribution to its more than half-a-million residents.

Under the Makatizen Economic Relief Program (MERP), each qualified resident is entitled to P5,000 financial aid, which is a contactless cash distribution program called Makatulong and implemented using Globe’s GCash platform.

It’s per individual resident, not per household, the Mayora said.

It seeks to jumpstart Makati’s economic engine through aggressive spending.

School opening

Preparations for school opening are also underway in many cities.

Pasig City under the leadership of Mayor Vico Sotto is likewise relentless in fighting COVID-19 and is now preparing for the school opening.

Based on his social media posts, the young mayor of Pasig has raised P1.2 billion to provide tablets and laptops to the city’s public school students in elementary, junior and senior high school, and their teachers.

This is to enable the city’s 138,000 public school students to continue their education as the country shifts to distance learning.

Manila Mayor Isko Moreno has announced a similar initiative. These are good programs so that learning won’t stop.

Makati, too, has its e-learning program customized for the pandemic.

Mayor Binay said each learner’s package contains an on-the-go flash drive containing digital learning modules, printed instructional materials for all subjects and washable face masks in a pouch.

Over 85,000 pupils from pre-school to senior high school, as well as teachers, will receive free five-hour daily internet load for the school year 2020 to 2021.

I hope other LGUs can do the same. This will surely help contain the virus as children won’t have to go to school and expose themselves to possible infection. More importantly, their learning will continue in the comfort and safety of their homes.

Solo parents

In Quezon City, Mayor Joy Belmonte also provided benefits for solo parents. Our nanny got a call for cash assistance. It was much appreciated.

Local chief executives need to really be creative and proactive since the pandemic won’t end any time soon.

Only a continued and committed response would help prevent a second wave of infection in different cities.

This is indeed the time for all LGUs to rise to the occasion.

Iris Gonzales’ email address is eyesgonzales@gmail.com. Follow her on Twitter @eyesgonzales. Column archives at eyesgonzales.com

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