Cebu airport’s 7 bidders: Who can woo more tourists, airlines and investors?
BULL MARKET, BULL SHEET - Wilson Lee Flores (The Philippine Star) - July 1, 2013 - 12:00am

Entrepreneurs are simply those who understand that there is little difference between obstacle and opportunity and are able to turn both to their advantage. — Niccolo Machiavelli

The process of public bidding for the P17.5-billion rehabilitation and expansion of the country’s second most important airport — the Mactan-Cebu International Airport — is already in the homestretch. Who will win? This is important to the country’s global prestige. For many years we’ve been lambasted for our mediocre airports, which are the first and last places tourists and foreign investors experience of the Philippines.

Whose bid will be best for our economy in terms of welcoming more tourists and international airlines, more foreign investors and better operational efficiency?

Many top businessmen and foreign investors I’ve talked to hope that technical prowess and long-term strategic economic impact on the Philippines should be the biggest considerations, not just the magnitude of any cash bid offer.

The seven groups of Filipino and foreign firms bidding for the Cebu project include three of the world’s top 10 best airports based on the 2013 Skytrax survey and awards:

• Filinvest of the Gotianun family and the world’s No. 1 best airport operator, Changi Airports Mena Pte Ltd of Singapore.

• San Miguel Corp. led by Ramon Ang and the Lucio Tan group (joint venture), and the world’s No. 2 best airport, Incheon Airport International Corp. of South Korea.

• Henry Sy’s Premier Airport Group and the world’s No. 7 best airport, Zurich Airport International AG of Switzerland.

• Metro Pacific Investments Corp. (MPIC), led by Manny V. Pangilinan and JG Summit Holdings, Inc. of John Gokongwei Jr. (joint venture), with Aeroports de Lyon, the fourth busiest airport in France next to Charles de Gaulle, Orly and Nice.

• AAA Airport Partners (a joint venture between the Zobel family’s Ayala Land and the Aboitiz clan’s Aboitiz Equity Ventures), with ADC & HAS Airports, Inc. of the US, which operates airports in Ecuador, Costa Rica, Liberia in Africa and South Korea’s Chungcheong Northern province.

• First Philippine Airports (consortium of Lopez-led First Philippine Holdings Corp. (FPHC) and Infratil Asia Ltd of New Zealand.

• Megawide Construction Corp. and GMR Infrastructure Limited of India (joint venture).

The winning bidder for this build-operate-transfer (BOT) project will be granted a 20-year concession.

Reform our Policies on Foreign investors & labor

Many business organizations I’ve talked to support Speaker Feliciano “Sonny” Belmonte Jr. in seeking decisive Charter change on the restrictive economic provisions of the Philippine constitution, which is one of the major obstacles to the much-needed inflow of foreign direct investments (FDI) into our economy for more jobs.

Why not also overhaul our labor laws so that local entrepreneurs and foreign investors will not be frightened of hiring more employees and expanding businesses? In the Philippines we have a labor policy that is more communistic than those in ostensibly “communist” China or the most liberal USA. In both the US and China, businesses can fire any employee without the need for justifying the reasons as long as the terminated employees are given fair monetary compensation for every year of service, but not here.

Philippine STAR columnist Boo Chanco wrote that on June 19, former president of the Asian Institute of Management (AIM) Francis Estrada spoke before the Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines (FINEX). “Foreign direct investments — $2.8 billion in 2012 and growing at an average annual rate of 52 percent over the period of 2003 to 2012; per capita FDI has actually declined 44 percent to $19 (2011) from $23 (2006); this compares with Indonesia ($80), Thailand ($115), Malaysia ($413) and Vietnam ($85).”

4 million unregistered micro-enterprises?

Congratulations to the Philippine SME Business Expo 2013, which will open on July 12 at 10 a.m. at the SMX Taguig, third floor of SM Aura Premier. Invited to the ribbon-cutting ceremony are Planters Development Bank chairman Ambassador Jesus P. Tambunting, former International Exchange Bank CEO Ramon Y. Sy, EIB Securities, Inc. president and former Development Bank of the Philippines CEO Reynaldo David, Metrobank Group founder George S. K. Ty, Alliance Global Group chairman Andrew L. Tan and ShoeMart, Inc./BDO chairman Teresita Sy-Coson. I was also invited to speak on July 13, Saturday, from 4:30 to 5 p.m. at the same venue.

Rajan Uttamchandani, chairman of Esquire Financing, Inc., which lends to SMEs, told Philippine STAR: “There are one million businesses registered with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), of which 99.7 percent are micro-small- and medium-scale enterprises or MSMEs. Only about 3,000 companies are large, or 0.3 percent. We should support MSMEs to grow in the Philippines.”

What about the undocumented micro-enterprises nationwide in our “underground economy”? Rajan estimates that there are three to four million unregistered micro-enterprises in the Philippines. What is his basis for this estimate? Rajan said that the biggest microfinance lender, Cardbank, has about 600,000 to 700,000 members — an estimated 25 percent of the total market.

1,000 Sindhi families & 100,000 Punjabis helping our economy

The Philippine-born Rajan is part of the ethnic Indian minority’s entrepreneurial Sindhi community, which he estimates to be 1,000 families in the Philippines. They include successful businessmen in garments, eyewear, etc. They are Hindu in religion.

Based on our research, another bigger group within the Indian community are the entrepreneurial Punjabis, who are Sikh by religion and more known in the Philippines as moneylenders. There are estimated to be 50,000 Punjabis legally residing here and about 50,000 who are undocumented, or an estimated total of 100,000 nationwide. They all do an important service for small traders with their financing support.

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One example of an SME that has grown in years “through perseverance, faith and dedication” is the 17-year-old Juan Carlo the Caterer, Inc. of STAR readers Engineer Alex Michael del Rosario and wife Teresita Macatangay del Rosario. The small business in Quezon City has grown and even catered such big celebrity weddings as those of Regine Velasquez and Ogie Alcasid in 2010, and Senator Bong Revilla and Lani Mercado in 1998. This year, their son, De La Salle University college student Juan Carlo del Rosario, has turned his school marketing project into a new offshoot business called “Debut by Juan Carlo,” which focuses on debuts.

Another SME that has grown in years is the Precious Heart Romances brand of Tagalog books published by Segundo “Jun” Matias Jr., now the “romance novel king of the Philippines.” Unknown to most, Jun Matias is also the Philippine licensee allowed to publish the Tagalog language versions of international bestselling books like Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James and other novels.

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STAR reader and Federation of Filipino Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Inc. (FFCCCII) president Alfonso Siy recently received the “Gawad Lakan ng Kalakalan” Award from the Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP) at the Marriott Hotel led by ECOP’s adviser Jose Pardo, chairman Miguel Varela, president Edgardo Lacson, ECOP 34th National Conference of Employers Organizing Committee chairman Francis Chua and witnessed by Labor Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz. Siy is president of the Fortune Net Group of Companies and is reportedly also a major investor in the diverse ventures of insurance and realty tycoon, Ambassador Antonio Cabangon Chua.

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