POSTSCRIPT / June 13, 2010 / Sunday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Going int’l, Lopezes eye clean and green power

HIRE & FIRE: The general rule is that if an executive can hire, he can also fire. That seems to be the simplistic approach of incoming President Noynoy Aquino in dealing with the “midnight” appointees of outgoing President Gloria Arroyo.

To some extent, he is right. After he takes over as Chief Executive on June 30, Aquino can review and even revoke presidential appointments — midnight, morning-after, high noon, or whatever — that are found to be defective or outright illegal.

But in the same manner that the power to appoint is not absolute, the power to dismiss is also not. One limitation is due process, a favorite legal tool of lawyers.

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AMUSING: Some appointees in government gain certain vested rights upon their assumption to office. They cannot be dismissed arbitrarily, whimsically or angrily.

A good example is Chief Justice Renato Corona, head of a co-equal branch of government. The new President may get away with ignoring him socially, but he cannot just remove or replace him.

The Chief Justice, like the President, can be removed from office only for a just cause and by due process, which is by impeachment, his dying and other clearly-defined modes.

Et cetera… It would be interesting, maybe amusing, to watch the new President grappling with an independent constitutional officer who was installed in office much ahead of him by operation of the Constitution.

If I were the new President, I would cool down, recognize the Chief Justice and look for ways to normalize relations with him.

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‘PIKI’ TAKES OVER: The business community is upbeat with the passing of the mantle of leadership of the country’s leading business conglomerate First Philippine Holdings Corp. (FPHC) from Oscar Lopez to his son Federico Lopez.

Federico, known in business circles as “Piki,” is in the third generation of the Lopez family. He will be taking the lead and be in the forefront of the family’s business as chairman and chief executive.

Family patriarch Oscar Lopez announced last May 31, his 80th birthday, his retirement as the FPHC chairman and chief. He has passed on these roles to his son Federico.

Piki sits as president and CEO of FPHC affiliate First Gen Corp., a generating firm operating two gas-fired power plants (Sta. Rita and San Lorenzo) in Batangas. FPHC operates Pantabangan dam and the Energy Development Corp., a geothermal-energy company acquired from Philippine National Oil Co.

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POWER CRISIS SEEN: Oscar Lopez is the brother of the late ABS-CBN chair and then Lopez patriarch Eugenio “Geny” Lopez Jr., whose son Eugenio “Gabby” Lopez III now sits as head of the giant television network.

Oscar and Geny’s other brother, Manolo, used to head the country’s prime utility firm Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) before the takeover of the group of “brown taipan” Manuel V. Pangilinan foiling the take-over bid of the government in 2008.

Federico Lopez predicted in 2008 energy shortages, particularly in the Visayas and Mindanao. Unless remedial steps are taken promptly, he said, lack of adequate and stable electricity will hobble the country’s growth.

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AUSPICIOUS DATE: During his birthday celebration, the elder Lopez recalled that he had made known to the officers, staff members and guests his intention to step down yesterday as FPHC chief executive.

Oscar Lopez was quoted as saying that June 12 “will mark the 82nd anniversary of the establishment of E&F Lopez Inc. by my father Eugenio Sr. and his brother, Fernando. E&F was the forerunner of our Lopez Group of Companies today. For us, therefore, it has always been an auspicious date.”

Oscar Lopez observed that his son Federico has been with the company for the past 22 years and was appointed as managing director for energy in 2008 when Peter Garrucho retired.

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GOING GLOBAL: “In moving forward,” Federico Lopez said, “It’s really just a lot of continuity moving in a direction he already set us all in the last few years, which … (is) in power generation, properties and manufacturing.”

Oscar Lopez cited their company’s preparations to go international. He said: “We have a lot to do locally just revving up our investment in EDC by making sure it does perform. And everything else that we have — hydro, geothermal and gas – (we need to make) sure that the whole generation portfolio operates as a very strong portfolio.”

Stock market analysts listed FPHC as one of the country’s top corporations to watch aside from Ayala and Aboitiz. No wonder the young Lopez plans to invest more in clean and renewable sources of energy.

Once they get to rev up EDC, he said, they would be ready to go international in a few years.

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CLEAN & GREEN: Lopez said FPHC has no immediate plans for their remaining shares in Meralco. “With that comes basically our one board seat, so we probably maintain that,” he added.

With focus on clean and green energy projects, Federico Lopez at the helm is expected to place geothermal, hydro, solar and wind power in the core of the Lopez business. Dependence on oil as generating fuel will be reduced.

In this age of global warming, it is remarkable that the Lopez power firm focuses on clean energy while others insist on power plants using cheaper fuel, such heavy fuel oil and coal, which damage the environment.

Lopez said, “It is our responsibility not only to do our part in providing the cheap and reliable power needed by the country, but to do so in a way that will not further damage our environment. This view is reflected in the choice of projects that we have undertaken and the technologies we are investing in.”

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of June 13, 2010)

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