MANILA, MARCH 15, 2011 
(STAR) SPY BITS By Babe Romualdez - The two youngest Filipino billionaires are Enrique “Ricky” Razon (EQR to his employees) and Andrew Tan. Both are just about in their 50s. Ricky Razon, who made it to Forbes magazine’s elite list of global billionaires for the first time, has a net worth estimated at $1.1 billion. Ricky initially inherited his wealth from his father Enrique “Pocholo” Razon Sr., a sportsman who also founded the original company International Container Terminal Services Inc. in 1987. But it was Ricky who turned ICTSI into the global behemoth that it has become today, with operations that reach as far as Brazil and Madagascar.

The “Port King,” also dubbed the “Baltic King” by the late Max Soliven because Ricky also has port operations in Poland, has shed off all his political colors by getting rid of Manila Standard Today which he owned for over 15 years. The paper had the reputation of traditionally being on the friendly side of current administrations. Ricky used to jokingly call it “Malacañang Gazette.” Last year, Ricky was selling the paper to this columnist at an extremely friendly price, but I opted to remain loyal with The STAR especially with the excellent relationship we have with our glossy magazine People Asia. I passed on the offer to a cousin, Leyte Congressman Martin Romualdez, who immediately grabbed the opportunity to own Manila Standard Today, no doubt to help him in his political career.

Ricky has always wanted to just concentrate on his ports business, although not many people know that he has also been buying a lot of land and properties all over the country. Because of his age, Ricky Razon could very well overtake many of the old tycoons in this country in a few years. Those who personally know Ricky Razon say he is such a hard working young man. So, as they say in Spanish, “tiene razon” – meaning he has all the reasons to be much bigger in a couple more years.

The other Filipino in Forbes’ list of global billionaires is Andrew Tan who used to buy airtime spots from us many years back when I was still with RPN 9. He used to buy package deals for his Andy Player whiskey brand. Today, Tan’s worth is estimated at $2.2 billion, his fortune no doubt built by dint of hard work and keen business savvy. Andrew Tan is known never to let a good deal pass, always on the lookout for mega deals for his Megaworld real estate development company.

This young billionaire continues to be into land banking, having recently acquired the controlling stake of Fil-Estate land (now Global Estate Resources Inc. or GERI), with properties that include Sherwood Hills Golf and Country Club in Cavite, whose new club officers promise more improvements and rehabilitation with the entry of billionaire Andrew Tan.

‘Presidential feces’

Architect and urban planner Jun Palafox recently discovered that Malacañang Palace has no sewage system. Jun is known for being outspoken especially on environmental issues like the cleaning up of Pasig River. According to Jun – and this has been confirmed by Public Works Secretary Babes Singson who was also a former president of Maynilad – Malacañang has been in violation of the 10-meter easement rule for riverbank properties and effectively does not have a proper sewerage system. In other words, throughout all the years of its existence, Malacañang Palace has been dumping its waste into the Pasig River.

Malacañang was originally built in 1802 by a Spaniard named Rocha (no confirmation whether related to the Rochas of Sharp Travel). And just like many old buildings and factories built along the river, no sewage system existed, with the direction of the pipes (where all sorts of garbage and effluents come out) going straight into the Pasig River. Can you imagine all these years how much presidential s – has gone to the river? As the Spaniards would say, “Que horror!”

Spy tidbits

– US State Secretary Hillary Clinton called Ambassador Albert del Rosario Sunday night to congratulate him on his appointment as Foreign Affairs Secretary. Clinton expressed willingness to work together on issues that are of mutual interest to the Philippines and the US, suggesting an early meeting in Washington to tackle these issues. During that phone call, they also briefly discussed maritime security and the conclusion of a regional code of conduct in the South China Sea or SCS – undoubtedly triggered by US concern over the recent incident involving the alleged incursion of Chinese patrol boats in the disputed Spratlys Island and also the reported arms smuggling activities along the Batangas coastline. Clinton also expressed concern about the condition of the Filipino overseas workers still trapped in Libya.

– Jun Palafox and Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers of the Philippines Inc. (CAMPI) president Elizabeth Lee, also president and vice president of the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP), respectively, assured us over lunch that the MAP is alive and kicking. If one can recall, we came out with a Spy Bits column item entitled “MAP Bankrupt?” (March 3 issue), and both admitted that the organization was actually on the brink of bankruptcy a year ago before Jun took over. But thanks to the diligent efforts of former MAP treasurer Judith Duavit Vasquez, MAP is back on its feet with total assets having increased by 34 percent from P23.8 million to P31.8 million as of the end of February, with cash balances increasing by 49 percent from P16.4 million to P24.4 million.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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