Iloilo is in the billionaire’s heart

By Herbert Vego

DOES it matter to us Ilonggos that Enrique Klar Razon Jr. is the third richest man in the Philippines with a net worth of 300 billion pesos?

It matters — even if he is no Ilonggo but a Manileño – because he is eager to spend a big portion of his wealth to industrialize the city and province of Iloilo. In fact, he has stashed away P1.9 billion as capital expenditure for the modernization of the energy-distribution utility in Iloilo City, MORE Electric and Power Corp. (MORE Power), of which he is the chairman.

Still unknown to most Ilonggos, Razon has finalized an agreement with the Ayala-led Ace Energy Corporation to purchase the latter’s 32-megawatt power barge facility at Barrio Obrero, Iloilo City.

There ought to be fewer brownouts, or none at all. His acquisition of Power Barge 101, which had originally been owned by state-run National Power Corporation (NPC), will be highly beneficial in boosting the distribution capacity of MORE Power during emergency situations when there is not enough electricity produced by the generation utilities.

It should allay fears that MORE Power would be unable to “deliver” if and when it expands its franchise to neighborhood towns currently served by the Iloilo Electric Cooperative (ILECO).

“We are prepared to meet the challenge,” according to MORE Power’s Customer Care Department head Ma. Cecilia “Maricel” Pe. “I understand that the expansion of the franchise has passed third reading in the House of Representatives and is now pending approval in the Senate.”

House Bill No. 10306 seeks to expand MORE Power’s existing franchise coverage into the towns of Alimodian, Leganes, New Lucena, Pavia, San Miguel, Santa Barbara, and Zarraga (2nd district), and to Anilao, Banate, Barotac Nuevo, Dingle, Dueñas, Dumangas, and San Enrique as well as Passi City (4th district).

“If given the opportunity by Congress to expand coverage,” this from MORE Power president Roel Z. Castro, “we will definitely also expand our workforce.”

Expansion also means branching out to the more environment-friendly “solarization” or conversion of sunlight into electricity in collaboration with the fledgling Solar Philippines. This eliminates carbon emission, thus helping the world fight climate change and global warming.

Already, Razon’s Prime Infrastructure Holdings Inc. (Prime Infra) has sunk P3.5 billion for laying out solar farms using imported solar panels in the adjoining provinces of Tarlac, Batangas and Cavite.

The Tarlac and Batangas solar plants already enjoy existing power supply agreements with Manila Electric Company (Meralco), thus guaranteeing a revenue stream.

The joint venture aims to expand into 800 megawatts (MW) of solar power projects initially in Luzon and later in the Visayas.

The solar system in the Philippines is already available for home use. But due to the high cost of equipment that includes solar panels, batteries, inverters and wires, wires and, installation, there is a need for mass utilization to make it affordable and competitive.

Razon has also invested P10.7 billion for a 25-percent stake or 820 million common shares in Manila Water Co., the water distributor serving the east zone of Metro Manila. It would not be surprising if he also brings water to Iloilo.

Were it not for the pandemic that has stymied the national economy, Razon could have already implemented another long-eyed project — the expansion of the Iloilo Port Complex in the city and the Dumangas Port in Dumangas town.

Razon’s flagship company, the International Container Terminal Services, Inc. (ICTSI), has submitted a proposal to the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) to develop the two ports in Iloilo  on an investment of over P5 billion.

Razon is no stranger to port management and cargo handling, which are his strong points. His flagship company, the International Container Terminal Services, Inc. (ICTSI), is in the business of cargo handling using automated harbor equipment for loading and unloading of cargoes at cheaper cost. Importers and exporters would no longer have to transship products via the ports of Cebu or Manila.

ICTSI is not “international” for nothing. Aside from nine ports in the Philippines (Manila, Subic, Batangas, Davao City and General Santos City, among others). ICTSI also operates in Indonesia, Pakistan, Australia, New Guinea, Brazil, Ecuador, Colombia, Argentina, Mexico, Honduras, Poland, Georgia, Croatia, Madagascar, Nigeria, Congo and Iraq.

Finally, let us be reminded that in September 2021, Mayor Jerry Treñas approved the resolution of the Sangguniang Panlungsod of Iloilo honoring Mr. Razon as “adopted son” for his contributions to the growth, development, and welfare of the city and its people.