POSTSCRIPT / May 25, 2014 / Sunday


Opinion Columnist

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GMA, Corona cited as exhibits at WEF

TOP EXHIBITS: To cap his “shame ‘em” campaign, President Noynoy Aquino may want to bus the World Economic Forum delegates to the Veterans Memorial Medical Center for them to view his prized Exhibit A for alleged official corruption.

There he could point to former President Gloria Arroyo, in a hospital gown and neck brace, detained indefinitely for plunder for writing “OK” on the margin of a routine memo needed to release intelligence funds of the Sweepstakes office.

Never mind if Arroyo, denied bail and the medical care of a doctor of her choice, has not been convicted and is still presumed innocent — even while her co-accused in the supposed conspiracy are out on bail.

From there, the foreign visitors can be herded to the house of former Chief Justice Renato Corona, Exhibit B, who had been impeached by congressmen even before reading the charges and convicted by senators after receiving pork barrel millions.

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BAD TASTE: The President has explained to the WEF delegates his obsession to jail the two figures. The reforms he had in mind, he said, were hard to put in place if unscrupulous officials were still around to steal taxpayers’ money.

“Dismantling the culture of corruption was a promise we made to the people,” he said without detailing, however, what he was doing to punish corrupt officials of his own administration.

We think it is most unkind and in bad taste for the President to try gaining points by blaming and shaming his political foes before foreign visitors without affording them a chance to give their side.

Corona, who has never been charged with stealing public funds, was ousted from the Supreme Court in what was actually a political process. As for Arroyo, she is being treated like a convict, although she is still presumed innocent under the law.

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U.S. PRESENCE: In Clark Field last Friday we asked Mabalacat City Mayor Marino “Boking” Morales about the return of American troops to the former base of the US 13th Air Force, then the biggest military installation outside continental America.

The return of GIs under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, the mayor said, will be an economic boost to his city of 250,000 and other communities surrounding the Clark Freeport.

That was the same welcome note we heard weeks ago from City Mayor Rolen Paulino of Olongapo, the liberty town outside Subic Bay.

Morales, guesting at the forum of the Capampangan in Media Inc. (CAMI) at itsBale Balita (House of News) at Clark, expressed optimism that the economic benefits of enhanced US presence will spread to the rest of Central Luzon.

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CROSSROAD: Morales, now on his 19th year (!) as mayor, also discussed an ambitious 20-year plan for Mabalacat to develop its own commercial center to rival, he said, Makati’s business district!

The new city is at the crossroad of three arteries — the North Luzon Expressway (NLEx), the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEx) now linked to the Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEx), and the historic MacArthur Highway.

The region’s main resource, he said, is its highly skilled and very literate population many of whom have had to go abroad to seek outlets for their potential. They can be lured back when we are ready to absorb them, the mayor said.

Incidentally, a great number of Filipinos from Central Luzon fly out to their work areas abroad via the Clark International Airport, bypassing Manila and saving on time and expenses.

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NO HONKY-TONKS: Some 87 percent of the land area of Clark is in Mabalacat. It is incorrect to say that Clark is in Angeles City where its Balibago gate happens to be just because Angeles used to be where most GIs spent their goodtime.

Mabalacat was “left behind”, because its pre-1991 conservative municipal council had adopted a policy against opening bars and such honky-tonk establishments catering to GIs in the dominantly Catholic town.

But now the city is reaping the fruits of its hosting the better side of Clark. By law, two percent of gross income earned by Clark locators goes directly to the local community hosting them.

Roughly P200 million of Mabalacat’s annual income of more than P700 million is contributed by the more than 700 locators in Clark. Another P200 million comes from its share in local governments’ Internal Revenue Allotments.

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ECONOMIC MIRACLE: Foreign investors who have heard of the “economic miracle” in the country are taking a second look at the Philippines as an investment destination.

In the follow-on stock offering, for instance, of 8990 Holdings listed on the stock exchange, two cornerstone investors have just come in: the TPG Capital of Texas (US), one of the five biggest global private equity funds, and Khazanah Nasional Berhad, Malaysia’s sovereign wealth fund.

These investors, according to 8990 president and CEO JJ Atencio, were part of the P9-billion investments that the biggest mass-housing developer was able to raise on the strength of its business with social dimensions.

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SOCIAL ASPECT: Atencio said the investments mean more land bank for the listed issue, which now has 250 hectares it can develop in four years. The entry of big foreign financiers will interest other investors waking up to the opportunities in the country.

He found it noteworthy that the two first-time investors were attracted by the social dimension that 8990 Holdings has introduced to favor the working class.

The developer focuses on this income bracket, especially renters who might not be able to own the apartments they live on. He said a renter can move in with just P12,000 down and a P5,000 monthly amortization for up to 25 years.

The housing sites are near the work places of the owners, and the company takes pains in educating the owners on the need to save for the monthly payments. He said this social aspect of 8990 Holdings caught the eye of the foreign investors.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of May 25, 2014)

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