The Philippine Star

When per­sonal rea­sons pre­vail

- MARICHU A. VIL­LANUEVA Philippines · Philippines Department of Foreign Affairs · Twitter · Standard Chartered Group · Bank of America · United States of America · Hong Kong · The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited · HSBC Holdings · Development Bank of the Philippines · Moro Islamic Liberation Front · Rodrigo Duterte · Bangsamoro Autonomous Region · Tweeter · Land Bank of the Philippines · Moro National Liberation Front · National Liberation Front · Datu Odin Sinsuat · Datu Paglas

Over the week­end, For­eign Af­fairs Sec­re­tary Teodoro Loc­sin was very vis­i­ble in his so­cial me­dia posts. Given his pre­ferred mode of com­mu­ni­ca­tions, @ted­dy­boy­loc­sin is very much fol­lowed not only by me­dia but also of the en­tire diplo­matic com­mu­nity here in the Philip­pines. This is not to men­tion his in­ter­na­tional fol­low­ing and the rest of his staff and per­son­nel of the Depart­ment of For­eign Af­fairs at home and to those posted abroad with whom he also of­fi­cially in­ter­acts through his Twit­ter ac­count.

From his very sup­port­ive com­ments about the “com­mute chal­lenge” that pres­i­den­tial spokesman Sal­vador Panelo went through last Fri­day, the DFA Sec­re­tary was also busy tweet­ing @ted­dy­boy­loc­sin on other sub­ject mat­ters. What caught my at­ten­tion in par­tic­u­lar was this post: “SOF Sonny Dominguez told me DFA should have one in­ter­na­tional bank, Stan­dard Char­tered. Good idea but I have no idea how to make it hap­pen. Right now we pick and choose; I chose Bank of Amer­ica; in­stant I was SFA my ac­counts were closed and I was given a check for the bal­ance.”

Loc­sin ob­vi­ously re­ferred to an­other fel­low Cabi­net mem­ber, Car­los “Sonny” Dominguez who is the SOF, as in Sec­re­tary of Fi­nance. The SFA refers to Loc­sin as in Sec­re­tary of For­eign Af­fairs.

Re­ply­ing to com­ments on this par­tic­u­lar tweet rec­om­mend­ing Hongkong and Shang­hai Bank (HSBC), Loc­sin re­torts: How would I know? I never even knew it was pos­si­ble and why HSBC?” But Tweeter-savvy Loc­sin him­self ended the thread on this topic with his last post on this sub­ject mat­ter: “Don’t worry it won’t hap­pen. Things will stay as they are; we’ve lived with it; why change it.” So that’s where the off-the-cuff sug­ges­tion of the SOF to the SFA.

While it may be a pri­vate con­ver­sa­tion he had with Dominguez, Loc­sin shared this with his Tweeter pub­lic fol­low­ing. And per­haps, to the cha­grin of Dominguez who may have to ex­plain his spe­cific rec­om­men­da­tion of Stan­dard Char­tered.

Speak­ing of Dominguez, the SOF may also deem it to ex­plain why he is be­ing pointed to as be­hind the al­leged block­ing of a loan ap­pli­ca­tion by a former busi­ness part­ner with whom he had a fall­ing out in the past ven­ture to­gether. In par­tic­u­lar, the name of Dominguez cropped up in the pub­lic laments of John Per­rine, chair­man and chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer (CEO) of Al Sa­har Agri-Ven­tures Inc. fol­low­ing the clo­sure of the lat­ter’s com­pany ven­tur­ing into a new ba­nana plan­ta­tion devel­op­ment pro­ject in Maguin­danao.

Per­rine has raised ap­pre­hen­sion that its loan ap­pli­ca­tions, which were deemed pro­duc­tive ven­tures, with both Land Bank of the Philip­pines (LBP) and the Devel­op­ment Bank of the Philip­pines (DBP) would be shot down due to past per­sonal dif­fer­ences with Dominguez.

Per­rine ear­lier an­nounced with ex­treme con­cern what he fears to be the loom­ing reper­cus­sions on the Min­danao peace process of the clo­sure of the ba­nana plan­ta­tion that his com­pany was de­vel­op­ing for the ex­port of cavendish ba­nanas.

Be­fore its clo­sure, over 1,000 jobs of which more than 600 con­sist of em­ployed rebel re­turnees from the sep­a­ratist Mus­lim fac­tions that both have en­tered into peace agree­ments with the gov­ern­ment one af­ter the other. The rebel re­turnees come from both Moro Na­tional Lib­er­a­tion Front (MNLF) and the Moro Is­lamic Lib­er­a­tion Front (MILF).

In the midst of ex­pand­ing an ini­tial 400-hectare Al Sa­har ba­nana plan­ta­tion into its pro­jected 1,500 hec­tarage, it will ex­tend the eco­nomic ben­e­fits for the com­mu­ni­ties in other ar­eas of Maguin­danao. The lo­ca­tions of which are specif­i­cally next to MILF base camps to pro­vide jobs for the former armed com­bat­ants who were to re­cently de­com­mis­sioned in rites at­tended no less by Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte.

The de-com­mis­sion­ing of armed com­bat­ants is part of the gov­ern­ment’s peace agree­ment with the MILF that was sus­tained by Pres­i­dent Duterte and who steered the pas­sage of Bangsamoro Or­ganic Law (BOL). The BOL gave birth to the newly ex­panded Bangsamoro Au­ton­o­mous Re­gion in Mus­lim Min­danao (BARRM) that in­cluded Maguin­danao. Al Sa­har’s plan­ta­tion is lo­cated in the mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties of Talayan, Budon and Datu Odin Sin­suat in the prov­ince of Maguin­danao, one of the poor­est prov­inces in the coun­try.

Dur­ing the eval­u­a­tion of the loan ap­pli­ca­tions, both Land Bank and DBP of­fi­cials ex­pressed sup­port to the pro­ject. Ac­cord­ing to Per­rine, the LBP Board of Di­rec­tors had ear­lier ap­proved a loan for P1.6 bil­lion for Al Sa­har in Fe­bru­ary 2017. At that time, Per­rine recalls, Dominguez sat as LBP chair­man. But Al Sa­har had re­quested for a change in one re­stric­tive loan con­di­tion. Un­for­tu­nately, Per­rine rued, he never re­ceived any re­ply if the loan was ap­proved or not.

Al Sa­har then ap­plied with DBP for a loan on De­cem­ber 28, 2018. Af­ter un­der­go­ing full eval­u­a­tion, the DBP Credit Com­mit­tee, highly rec­om­mended for ap­proval by the Lend­ing Group Head for an amount of P2.05 bil­lion. In a di­rect per­sonal let­ter to Dominguez on Au­gust 16 this year, Per­rine ap­pealed to Dominguez to sup­port even a re­duced DBP loan amount of P496 mil­lion for the ex­ist­ing first phase of 402 hectares, which DBP had al­ready ver­i­fied that 85% of the as­sets were al­ready in­stalled.

Per­rine wrote Dominguez: “The work­ers, their fam­i­lies, and the com­mu­nity lead­ers are all pray­ing for your mercy and sup­port for the DBP loan of P496M to save their livelihood­s.” Dominguez only con­firmed to have read the let­ter, ac­cord­ing to Per­rine – but no re­sponse. Thus, Per­rine was forced to close down the ex­pan­sion pro­ject and had to lay off his work­ers last month.

Per­rine sus­pects “Sonny’s” an­i­mos­ity could have stemmed from an ear­lier part­ner­ship in­volv­ing a sim­i­lar 515-hectare ba­nana plan­ta­tion, Ardex­cor, in Datu Pa­glas, Maguin­danao (planted on 667 hectares of land leased from a com­pany con­trolled by Dominguez which had ac­quired the former Datu Sali­pada Pen­datun Es­tate from LBP). Thus, they be­came part­ners from 1999 up to 2007 – when Per­rine of­fered to buy Dominguez’s 60% share due to de­clin­ing per­for­mance of the farm.

But “Sonny” in­stead bought out Per­rine. How­ever, in Oc­to­ber 2016, Dominguez abruptly sold the en­tire 515-hectare Ardex­cor ba­nana plan­ta­tion (while main­tain­ing a 25-year lease of the lands) for only P1.00 to his buyer, who sup­pos­edly ad­vanced $2 mil­lion into the fail­ing op­er­a­tion.

The buyer sub­se­quently turned around and of­fered to sell Ardex­cor to Per­rine in Fe­bru­ary 2017 for the same price of P1.00 un­der the con­di­tion that he will be re­im­bursed of the $2 mil­lion that he had ad­vanced to Ardex­cor. To save the plan­ta­tion and pre­vent the black mark on in­vest­ing in the Bangsamoro that such a fail­ure would have caused, Per­rine ac­cepted the of­fer, and in­vested about P166 mil­lion to re­ha­bil­i­tate the plan­ta­tion.

From that time on, the plan­ta­tion re­cov­ered and is do­ing well. It is es­ti­mated that the former owner, Dominguez, may have ac­cu­mu­lated losses of up to P800 mil­lion when he sold the plan­ta­tion for only P1.00. It was af­ter Per­rine’s takeover at the end of Fe­bru­ary 2017 of this former plan­ta­tion of Dominguez that their per­sonal re­la­tion­ship turned sour.

When per­sonal rea­sons pre­vail over other con­sid­er­a­tions, any de­ci­sion be­comes un­justly sub­jec­tive.

When per­sonal rea­sons pre­vail over other con­sid­er­a­tions, any de­ci­sion be­comes un­justly sub­jec­tive.

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