Hindering business and local development

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    DESPITE the profound grief the Gokongwei siblings is experiencing with the death of their kindly mother and father, many of us have been moved by what seemed to be the exceptionally deep attachment between their parents. The Gokongwei matriarch was apparently terribly heart-broken with her husband passing away. She followed him to the grave a week after. During the burial she was probably so devastated she could not take life without him. And she was gone the following day, almost sure she would be with her John again and, this time, forever.

    It is not common that we hear of a nearly eternal bond between husband and wife, especially during this time of countless family tragedies and separations. Wealthy politicians and businessmen, along with CEOs and presidents of large companies, have led double lives with paramours or second and third families. Devoted husbands and loyal and suffering wives are today straight out of a fiction book. More than Gokongwei’s phenomenal success in business lies the truly endearing and enduring legacy left behind by the “heart and soul” of his family,” his wife Elizabeth. Above all, their son, Lance, knows that they have everything to thank God for.

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    Big business usually runs into “roadblocks” erected by local companies owned and controlled by entrenched wealthy families and politicians. Businessman Enrique Razon is up against a local power distributor owned by the very wealthy Cacho family in Iloilo City while also eyeing to put up two major ports in the city as alternative cargo handling hubs in Southeast Asia. The Panay Electric Cooperative (PECO), which has lorded it over the power distribution industry in the city for over for over 90 years, announced it would invest P1.1 billion in its expansion program to improve its electric distribution system. It filed a case before the Court of Appeals questioning the expropriation of its distribution assets in favor of Razon’s MORE Electric and Power Corp. The Iloilo Regional Trial Court had initially ruled favorably on the expropriations issue for MORE.

    But Congress has awarded the utility distribution franchise to MORE late last year under the EPIRA law to make the system “more efficient and to ensure the customers assured supply of affordable electricity.” PECO now finds itself clinging to its operating franchise that no longer exists. Through the years, Iloilo residents who have become weary of the Cacho family’s dominance over the business and economic development in the city, forcibly limiting their small companies and enterprises, can now hope for better things to come. They are almost sure the overcharging of electricity rates, as well as the frequent interruptions of electric supply in their city and nearby towns, will become things of the past.

    The Court of Appeals, through Associate Justice Alfred Ampuan, has dismissed the petition since only the Supreme Court has jurisdiction over cases of utility distribution as provided under Republic Act 9136 or the Electric Power Industry Reform Act. Meanwhile, PECO has warned that MORE’s takeover will likely plunge Iloilo City in darkness which the CA has brushed aside, pointing to MORE’s obligations that are clearly decreed in its new franchise.

    On one hand, with its vast resources and global expertise MORE will likely reverse the consequence of PECO’s aging assets and stifling management. And Razon’s huge undertaking of putting up two major ports in the city with investments of up to P10 billion will open new doors for employment and other business opportunities in the area and nearby cities and municipalities. Razon should try to welcome any serious offers of partnerships from the Cachos instead of being tied-up with legal cases meant to derail his immensely profitable business plans.