RSA livens up PEB

BUSINESS SNIPPETS - Marianne Go - The Philippine Star

Tycoon Ramon S. Ang easily stole the spotlight and made the news at Monday’s Philippine Economic Briefing (PEB) held at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC). Every time he stood up and walked around, members of the media immediately surrounded him, followed him around, and peppered him with questions.

Looking very dapper in a barong, the head of San Miguel Corp. made the first headline on his comment on the West Philippine Sea. Members of the diplomatic corps who attended the PEB all lined up to introduce themselves, greeted him and eagerly had their photos taken with him.

Economic officials led by Finance Secretary Ralph Recto, Budget Secretary Amenah Pangandaman, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan, International Monetary Fund resident representative to the Philippines Ragnar Gudmundsson and BSP Senior Assistant Governor Illuminada Sicat were easily eclipsed onstage as media scrambled to gather around RSA, and no one had the courage to admonish the media for the commotion distracting the panel discussion.

When RSA stood up to address the panel, it wasn’t even to ask a question, but to make a statement that made headlines in online media Monday afternoon. He was, according to Miguel Camus of Insiderph.com, a rockstar whom all wanted to hear, see, shake hands and have a photo with.

If RSA was running for an elective position, he definitely would win votes when he stressed the importance of not letting go of the Philippines’ claim to the West Philippine Sea, which is rich in resources. According to RSA, “We have a very big reserve in West Philippine Sea, that’s why they (China) are very interested in the Philippines... so let us not let go of it. We should protect our territory.”

RSA cited the Philippines’ lack of substantive oil reserves as the reason for the country’s inability to compete for investments with its neighbors Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand, which on average are able to produce one million barrels of crude oil a day compared to the Philippines’ measly production of 6,000 barrels per day.

With San Miguel and Petron’s presence in Malaysia, RSA is aware of the cost of gasoline in Malaysia, which he said is a mere P20 per liter compared to the P60 per liter cost in the Philippines. Additionally, he said, Malaysia also offers subsidies that results in lower energy cost that makes the Southeast Asian country attractive to foreign investors.

The Philippines unfortunately, RSA said, imposes taxes on fuel and power, resulting in higher energy cost that makes us less competitive.

As reporters followed him around, RSA also said that he may still pursue his previous plan of building a toll road above the Pasig River, a project that has been criticized by environmentalist groups as possibly altering the natural flow of water.

According to Ang, no formal withdrawal of his proposal has been made as SMC may be subject to some penalties, as such, they are studying possible changes to their proposal.

The visionary tycoon also briefly touched on the impending takeover of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport by Sept. 14 and what actions the San Miguel consortium would initially take. He said that the current airport facilities need a lot of overhauling with regards to its electrical requirements, elevators, escalators and bathroom facilities.

SMC is set to takeover the facility by mid-September.

Sartorial switch

Infrastructure magnate Sid Consunji also attended the PEB, wearing a suit but doing away with the tie. Just like Ang, both were quite formal in their appearance even though they usually prefer a more relaxed polo shirt on regular work days.

In a previous event that Ang had attended earlier this month with Sabin Aboitiz for the signing of a memorandum of understanding with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources for the protection and preservation of the Verde Island Passage at the Manila Peninsula, Ang had arrived wearing a formal suit.

However, Ang was surprised to see Sabin casually garbed in a white AboitizPower polo shirt and not in his usual snazzy business suit. Sabin had actually rushed back to Makati to attend the scheduled 1:30 p.m. MOU signing after presiding at the ground breaking rites for the Aboitiz InfraCapital Economic Estates, Tari Estates in Tarlac at 10 a.m.

Sabin quickly assured RSA that he had brought a suit and would change into a more formal attire, but on the contrary, RSA instead offered to change to his preferred black polo. Thus, when Manuel V. Pangilinan, who was also part of VIP MOU signing, arrived wearing a silver suit saw the two other tycoon, he suddenly felt overdressed.

Ghosting the PEB

Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Governor Eli Remolona Jr., who was supposed to open the PEB, may have unintentionally “ghosted” the event as ghost stories swirled that day as he had gone on official leave to the US, perhaps to look for a ghostbuster, conduct a seance to reach out to ghosts, or conduct an exorcism?

Thus, a pre-recorded video address had to make do with the BSP chief recycling an earlier speech he had also delivered during the 42nd anniversary of the Capital Market Development Foundation the previous week at the Manila Golf Club in Makati.

Remolona once again reiterated the need for the development and the deepening of the Philippine capital markets, which are vital to the economy.

“Hand in hand with the government, we are pushing on multiple fronts to deepen our capital markets. Such deepened markets will enhance our transmission mechanisms for monetary policy and make our financial system more resilient,” the governor explained in his video message.

Deepening the country’s capital market also diversifies funding sources for investments, businesses, and the economy, he added.

In the same event, the governor shared that the BSP is taming inflation: “We faced unusual supply shocks, which have been large and relentless. From a peak of 8.7 percent in January 2023, inflation has since been on a general downtrend, with the latest rate as of April 2024 at 3.8 percent, within the government’s target range. “

The governor also reported that, “our banks are well capitalized and flushed with liquidity. They are in a good position to continue to support growth.”

He added that the BSP continues to take proactive steps to digitalize in general and improve our payments and settlements system in particular, helping big investors, small businesses and Filipino families with increasingly digitalized transactions.

Remolona underscored that the PEB’s “PH On-the-Go: Fast-Tracking Economic Progress” theme reflects the country’s economic growth, it is not just a cliché.

The country’s economic growth is projected to be six to seven percent this year. “Progress is not about growth. We want this growth to improve the lives of most of our people,” he added.

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