By Herbert Vego
EARLY last Tuesday, I learned that billionaire Enrique K. Razon Jr., 62, had landed on his private plane in Iloilo City. I thought it would be good news but refrained from announcing it, knowing his preference for traveling incognito. He is humble to the point of looking just like an ordinary Juan dela Cruz in a shirt and denims.
Anyway, I did write about him on Wednesday without mentioning his “second coming”. And so, now I would like to elaborate on why his visit would redound to the benefit of the city and province of Iloilo, where he discussed his ongoing power-distribution project with Mayor Jerry P. Treñas, Iloilo Governor Arthur Defensor Jr. and President Roel Z. Castro of MORE Electric and Power Corp. (MORE Power).
As everybody knows, Razon is the principal owner of MORE Power, which is about to implement its mandate of expansion to Passi City and 15 towns of the province in accordance with a new law, RA 11918. Construction of extended power lines would start as soon as the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) would have issued its approval.
Why would a billionaire like Razon even dare compete with the Iloilo Electric Cooperative (ILECO)? Would it not be against the law? We heard ILECO officials question its legality.
Nay, not so. A reading of Section 43 of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) would show that the ERC is tasked to promote fair competition, encourage market development, ensure customer choice and penalize abuse of market power in the electricity industry.
Forbes magazine once quoted Razon, “Anything I do, there has to be some competition involved. If not, it is not worth doing.”
Because of the escalating prices of coal and oil that disable distribution utilities from keeping electricity prices down, Razon is embarking on renewable energy,
Fortunately for MORE Power, it is a subsidiary of Prime Infrastructure Holdings Inc., which is now focused on the construction of solar farms and solar battery facilities.
Razon, Treñas believes, sees other concerns that require collaboration with the local government units. In fact, years before the pandemic, the visiting tycoon had thought of expanding his port-operation business to the city and province of Iloilo. He is the chairman of the International Container Terminal Services, Inc. (ICTSI), the Philippine port-handling giant that also operates in Poland, Brazil, Mexico, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America.
He has a pending proposal to the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) for the expansion and modernization of the Iloilo International Port in Lapuz district and of the port of Dumangas, Iloilo.
Christian Gonzalez, Razon’s nephew and general manager of the ICTSI, has personally visited both ports. He is impressed by their potentials to attract big shippers.
Razon, recognized by Forbes as the third richest Filipino with a net worth of US $5.7 billion, once gave in to the persistent effort of economist and TV host Solita “Winnie” Monsod for an interview. She asked him how he became a billionaire.
“Work, work and work,” he laughed, insinuating that he had no choice but to live up to the challenge of preserving the ports business that he had inherited from his father in 1987.
Razon was 17 years old 10 years earlier in 1977 when he took a minimum-wage job at the family business, working his way through the ranks.
It was many years later that he enrolled in college and finished BS Business Administration at De La Salle University in 1980.
Huli man daw at magaling, naihahabol din.
NOW that the Iloilo City Health Office has closed 21 water refilling stations due to cases of either acute gastroenteritis (AGE) or cholera, are we safe from those that have remained open?
It’s not really because the closed refilling stations are suspected of being contaminated. It’s because some of them had been operating either clandestinely or without sanitary and other valid permits, according to Dr. Annabelle S. Tang, the city health officer.
There are others that failed to pass the water potability testing.
Of the more than 400 AGE and cholera cases recorded in the city, 10 have died.
In the province, only 13 cases have been reported to health officer Dr. Maria Socorro Quiñon.
The closures of the refilling stations have made it hard for customers to find a safer source.
If I may recommend, the safer ones belong to Aquasure Philippines Water Systems, owned by my good friend Dr. Veulah Fernandez Pateño, who personally attends to its main outlet at Commission Civil St. It has 39 branches and franchisees nationwide.
Her husband Ronie is in charge of installing and upkeeping the imported filtration machines.
“We rely on five-stage reverse osmosis filtration that ensures potability,” she told me.
Incidentally, Dr. Pateño has an interesting success story anchored on the adage, “If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again.” More on that story later.