POSTSCRIPT / October 22, 2006 / Sunday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Mirant's Pinoy workers restive over US benefits

U.S. BONANZA: Some 1,200 Filipino workers of Mirant Philippines already agitated by the impending sale of their company and their possible separation are all riled up by reports that 125 Americans workng out the sale will receive a $34-million bonus.

Mirant Philippines will be sold shortly, but until now neither the local management nor the parent company Mirant Corp. based in Atlanta, Georgia, has given a firm commitment about what separation benefits Filipino workers will receive.

Management keeps talking about a plan to pay them 2.5 months’ separation pay for every month of service, but the workers want this in a form that will bind whichever firm buys Mirant.

Being a distinctly different entity, workers are afraid that the buyer (which is likely to be an Asian group) may disavow any commitment of the present management.

The talk is that the local Mirant firm must be sold before the year ends so the US parent company can show to its stockholders a good financial statement for the fiscal year.

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PEANUTS FOR PINOYS: Mirant Philippines operates the 1,218-megawatt coal-fired power plant in Sual, Pangasinan, and another 735-mw generator in Pagbilao,Quezon. It also holds a 25-percent stake in the 1,200-mw natural gas plant in Ilijan, Batangas.

Mirant is ceasing all operations outside the US. In a recent filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission, the Georgia firm said it would give $34 million to 125 US employees for the successful sale of the Philippine assets. That averages around P13.6 million per US employee.

In comparison, if all Filipino employees of Mirant are paid by the incoming owners the hoped-for 2.5 months of pay for every year of service, the package would cost around $24 million — or an average of P1 million per employee.

This is peanuts compared to the P13.6 million that each US employee will receive. More so when we consider that it was the Filipinos who have done all the work in making Mirant a top profit-maker, raking in more than P10 billion a year for the past five years.

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DISTURBING: With the yearend approaching without Mirant making a firm legal commitment that would be honored by the buyer, employees have written Labor Secretary Arturo Brion for help.

They asked the labor department to intervene and prevent a labor dispute that may affect the power supply in Luzon. They also cited alleged “unfair treatment” of Filipino workers.

The sale of the local Mirant is expected to fetch close to $3 billion for the parent US firm. All that money will be repatriated to Georgia, on top of the profits of the past years already sent over.

The divestment by a giant player is expected to disturb the power industry and the foreign investment picture in general. Having made almost P12 billion last year, or P1 billion a month, why is Mirant pulling out?

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MANILA LOSING OUT: Days ago, the United Nations Conference of Trade and Development reported that foreign direct investments (FDI) into the ASEAN region reached a new high last year as strong regional economies drew in more capital.

With its high economic growth, the region has become increasingly attractive to market-seeking investors, UNCTAD said. It has become a hot spot for transnational corporation investments in financial services and high technology industries.

The dampener was that despite all that lively activity around it, the Philippines continues to lag in drawing long-term foreign money, the UNCTAD said in its annual World Investment Report.

Southeast Asia received $37.1 billion worth of FDI in 2005, with only $1.1 billion of that or 2.9 percent going to the Philippines, the report said.

One positive angle is that compared to its dismal record last year, the investments drawn by the Philippines in 2006 jumped almost twofold. It was the highest seen since the $1.5 billion recorded in 2002 and the $1.2 billion in annual averages in the 1990s.

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CUENCA SIDE: Rodolfo M. Cuenca, headman of the then Construction Development Corp. of the Philippines, said among other things in a letter reacting to our Sept. 24 Postscript titled “Cuenca suddenly appears to reclaim PNCC shares”:

“I hold stocks in PNCC (successor to CDCP) issued in my name which amounts to more than 700,000 shares.

“PNCC shareholders sued PNCC to require it to account since 1984. PNCC never provided the shareholders annual reports nor financial statements since 1984 and neither has it held an annual stockholders meeting since 1984.

“The main reason that CDCP’s finances fell into trouble was because government failed to pay its obligations to CDCP.”

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RADSTOCK DEAL: Regarding the reported compromise deal with Radstock (a company that had bought the receivables of Marubeni from CDCP/PNCC), involving PNCC supposedly paying P6 billion to Radstock, Cuenca said among other things:

“As president of CDCP, I signed a guarantee in favor of Marubeni which is capped at P20 million.

“The supposed guarantee by a subordinate CDCP officer was never taken up in the CDCP board nor approved by me or the board, at least during my tenure as CDCP president from its inception until 1983.

“During my tenure, attempts by Marubeni to obtain CDCP’s recognition of the obligation was denied by me personally.

“The so-called board approval is questionable and may be illegal as it was obtained allegedly on Oct. 20, 2000, 20 years after the alleged transaction and only a few months prior to the filing of the suit for recovery by Radstock.

“The approval facilitated a suit for recovery that must have been ready for filing. (Assigned by Marubeni to Radstock on Jan.10, 2001, with the RTC issuing an order to garnish PNCC on Jan. 23, 2001).

“No one at PNCC asked or consulted me on the veracity of Marubeni’s claim. I would therefore have had no means of knowing that the Radstock deal was being cooked.”

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TREATED AS OUTSIDER: Cuenca also said:

“Any prudent man would raise the red flag if a giant company like Marubeni (with branch office in Manila) assigned its claim to a tax-haven shell company called Radstock. PNCC is a lised company in the Stock Exchange with around 4,000 shareholders.

“In spite of its shares being actively traded, PNCC management has conveniently avoided calling for an annual stockholders meeting for the last 22 years. PNCC management has never provided annual reports and financial statements to its stockholders.

“I am not a director nor an officer of the PNCC and am treated as an outsider. PNCC board directors could not have known the facts of Marubeni’s claim since no one in that board, not its present staff, is knowledgeable on what transpired within Basay Mining Corp. and CDCP from 1978 to 1984.

“You blamed me for not knowing that the Mandaluyong RTC issued a decision against PNCC and was still sleeping when the case was elevated to the CA. I was not informed that there was such a case.

“Basay Mining and CDCP were two separate corporations. Both were listed in the exchanges. Marubeni loaned funds to Basay for their own selfish reasons and not entitled to a CDCP guarantee.”

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of October 22, 2006)

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