(STAR) TAKIN’ CARE OF BUSINESS By Babe Romualdez - Media politicians: The election fever is fast catching on, and it caught fire even with media people. Two members of the Manila Overseas Press Club (MOPC) board have decided to throw their hats in the political arena. One is STAR columnist Ricardo "Dong" Puno who is running as congressman for the lone district of Muntinlupa against incumbent Ruffy Biazon, son of Senator Rodolfo Biazon.

Dong as everyone knows ran in the 2001 senatorial elections, but didn’t make it. This time, he’s gunning for a congressional seat. Because Dong Puno is one who really believes there should be no conflict of interest, he said he will give up his current positions and concentrate on serving the people of Muntinlupa.

Another MOPC board member is Maloli Espinosa, vice president for corporate affairs of ABS-CBN. It looks like Maloli is one who probably has no choice but to join the fray. She comes from a family of political kingpins in Masbate. But her decision to run may also have personal implications because her father, Congressman Moises Espinosa Sr., was killed in 1989. After 17 years, Jun Fernandez was finally found guilty of murdering her father. In 2001, her brother Moises Espinosa Jr., who was then Masbate City mayor, was also killed ironically on his 40th day in office. Much earlier in 1995, her uncle Tito Espinosa, the brother of her father, was fatally ambushed in Quezon City.

It’s not for nothing that Masbate is known as the "Wild West" of the Philippines. We certainly hope Maloli will take good care of herself. She is one brave woman and we know that she will do well as a congresswoman. Nevertheless, she shouldn’t try to be a dead hero.

What would be the loss of the media world will be the gain of politics since Dong and Maloli are two of the finest in the industry. They could certainly contribute a lot towards a higher level of politics.

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SM Group goes on resort mode

In spite of the coming elections, Henry Sy’s SM group has decided to push ahead in developing its 100-plus hectare property in Ternate, Cavite into a world class mixed use property development complete with a resort, residential condominium, club house and other leisure/recreational facilities. The SM group has Louie Coson, the late golfer-businessman husband of SM heiress Tessie Sy Coson, to thank for. Louie was a visionary and for years, he had been looking at this property in the south as a potential leisure hub. Being a golfer, he could visualize a top class golf course similar to Pebble Beach in California.

The SM Group is certainly expanding into the ecotourism industry with their Cavite property. In fact, they’re putting up a regular ferry, called "Henry’s Ferry," from Manila Bay to Ternate which could take about one hour. Henry’s Sy’s group has always been at the forefront of development no matter what. This year, they’ve set aside P20 billion for expansion projects. Whether there is political stability or not, they’ve always been steadfast, ready to take risks.

This is the kind of entrepreneurship we need, with businessmen investing in this country rather than putting their money abroad on LOI (Living on Interest). The risks taken by Henry Sy have paid off well, making SM one of the largest fortunes ever built in the world especially now with Tessie Sy Coson at the helm. Fortune magazine has certainly taken note, citing her as the 46th most powerful woman in international business. Tessie has been in the prestigious list for six straight years, and is the only Filipina so far to do so.

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Upbeat hotel and resto industry

Speaking of the economy doing well, there is an upsurge in hotel occupancy rates, which was confirmed to us by several hotel managers. Many of these bookings have also been concentrated for seminars and conventions. This is a positive development which is expected to continue up to the summer months.

In the restaurant industry, there is also an upsurge, with more people dining out in bars and restaurants. This is welcome news considering that the restaurant industry experienced one of its lowest points last year. This upsurge in dining was confirmed to us by new restaurateur Al Tengco who says his Japanese restaurant Nanohana has been fully booked every single day.

Louie and Cecile Ysmael have also confirmed this upward trend. Their newly set up restaurant called Thai at Silk over at Serendra in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig is fully booked lunch and dinner, seven days a week.

These are certainly positive indicators. And in spite of all the negatives people may have said about what’s going on in this country, the economy has been at its best since 2001. We’re just hoping the May elections will not ruin this surge in the economy.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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