By Melandrew T. Velasco
Early this month, the World Bank released its forecast for the Philippine economy at 4.7 percent growth this year with the country weighed down by the pandemic.
Like other developing countries, the Philippines needs all the help to be able to put back on track its economic trajectory. It is blessed to have citizens, conglomerates and other businesses in the country that are more than willing to extend assistance for the social good. One of them is Enrique K. Razon, Jr., the second wealthiest Filipino in Forbes’ list of world billionaires.
When the pandemic broke out in the country last year, he was among the country’s biggest contributors in the humanitarian mission to support the government’s fight against COVID-19. His ICTSI and Bloomberry companies donated P600 million for supplies and equipment for hospitals and P100 million for relief operations in vulnerable communities.
“The only thing that counts now is defeating the virus. What is important is the need for essential goods to keep flowing. This is a war with an unseen enemy and we will have to tally up the losses later on. More important are the concerns of the people. Feeding the people,” he had said.
Early this year, Razon led the private sector in signing a tripartite agreement with the government and American drug manufacture Moderna for the supply of 20 million mRNA-1273 vaccine doses in the country. Initial shipment is expected next week. With more vaccines available, inoculation will be ramped up and economic activity is expected to become more vigorous. The ports tycoon has become a “white knight” with a heart for the poor, the less privileged.
Razon is also the white knight of Manila Water, the East Zone concessionaire that President Duterte took to task for alleged onerous provisions in the concession agreement.
In business, a white knight refers to an individual, a company or an investor that saves another company from a hostile takeover thereby ensuring that the core business of the company remains.
With his acquisition of majority shares in Manila Water and a revised concession agreement signed, Razon has taken over as Chairman and CEO of the company. Aside from signing of the revised CA set to expire in 2037, being deliberated in Congress is a 25-year franchise for Manila Water that will extend Manila Water operations beyond 2037.
Razon who is Chairman and President of ICTSI, the country’s leading terminal operator, grew the port business in Manila started by his grandfather in 1916 and rebuilt by his father after the Second World War. Today, ICTSI has subsidiaries in Eastern Europe, Africa and the Americas.
He is also CEO and Chairman of Bloomberry Resorts Corporation, which includes the Solaire Hotel and Casino.
Expanding his conglomerate, he put up Prime Strategic Holdings, Inc. of which he is Chairman. The core infrastructure arm of Enrique K. Razon Jr. is Prime Infra and has investments portfolio in water, energy and construction.
Razon has been stepping up his investments in infrastructure projects in recent years through his holding company Prime Strategic, which is developing water and power generation projects in the Philippines.
Aside from Manila Water, Razon is involved in the Wawa Bulk Water Supply Project. It involves the construction of two water supply infrastructures that will provide Manila Water Company 80 million liters daily in its first phase which is expected to be completed by 2022. By 2025, the second phase will be completed that will ensure total of 518 million liters daily supply to address the water crisis in the National Capital Region and the province of Rizal.
Proponent of the project is WawaJVCO, Inc., a joint venture company of Prime Infra and San Lorenzo Ruiz Builders and Developers Corporation owned by Oscar Violago. Contractor of the project is Prime BMD, a partnership between Prime Infra and BMD, an Australian construction company.
In the energy sector, Prime Infra has interest in the Chico Hydropower Plant. Created to develop the 150MW-250 MW hydropower plant is the ChicoJVCo. It is currently in its initial stages. As published in the Prime Infra website, the 150MW Chico HPP run-of-the-river type plant, located in Bgy. Mabongtot, Lubuagan, Kalinga, consists of a 65-m high RCC dam with 4-bay emergency spillways to pass a PMF equivalent to a 10,000 year flood. The reservoir area is 157 hectares at the full supply level at Elev. 445m. Prime Infra also has investment portfolio in Iraq in the energy sector.
As the country continues to battle the pandemic’s negative effects, we cannot afford to despair. Let us be white knights to one another. Like Enrique K. Razon, a white knight sailing through who sees opportunities amid all the problems.