opinion

From puto vendor to marine general

July 8, 2019

As Lt. General Emmanuel B.  Salamat’s brilliant nearly 39-year military career draws to an end this week, the Northern Luzon Command (NOLCOM) Commander cannot help but reminisce his humble beginnings.       Salamat was the 6th of 13 children of Pablo and Anita Salamat. His father, a former prison guard, rose from the ranks and eventually retired as a Colonel in the Philippine army.       Salamat remembers the early days when the family was struggling financially. “Napakaliit lang ng sueldo ng sundalo that time.”        While studying in the Muntinlupa National High School (also my alma mater), he used to walk 5 kilometers daily to their house in Soldiers’ Hills Village just to save the 50 centavos jeepney fare.       To augment the family income, his mother started selling puto and guess who became his mother’s principal distributor.       “During my free time, I had to help Nanay to earn extra money by roaming around the Bureau of Correction (BuCor) reservation selling puto.       “I also remember one time when that box of puto on my head suddenly fell down on the ground.       “Sa takot ko sa Nanay ko, pinulot ko yung mga puto at ibinenta pa rin. Surprisingly, I sold it all out.”      The military has been embedded in his genes. When the time came, Salamat applied for admission at the Philippine Military Academy where he graduated in 1985.       In his more than 38 years of military service, he spent most of his career in the combat areas as a Marine Officer.       He was in the treacherous mountain areas of Palawan, Bataan, Jolo, Zamboanga Peninsula, and in Central Mindanao running after and fighting against secessionist groups, local terrorist groups, kidnap for ransom groups as a Junior and later as a  Field Grade Officer.       He also led various significant battles against BIFF in Palimbang, Mamasapano  (SPMS Box) in Central Mindanao as Brigade Commander.       His most notable accomplishments include overseeing the Marine operations during Marawi Seige as Commandant of the Philippine Marine Corps and later as Deputy Commander of JSOTF “TRIDENT” in Marawi.       Shortly thereafter, he was assigned to his present post as Commander of the Northern Luzon Command.       Between field duties, Salamat honed his administrative, strategic and operational skills by completing the following:      -Naval Staff and Command Management Course, 1999, Graduated with distinction.       -Command and General Staff Course, 2007, Honor Graduate and Best Commandant Paper Award       -Master in Public Management, UP Open University, 2009      -Defense Strategic Studies Course,  Australian Defense College, 2010  (Conferred as Fellow of Centre for Defense and Strategic Studies)      -Master of Arts in Strategic Studies, Deakin University, 2011       -Senior Executive Course on National Security, National Defense College, 2013      He also served briefly as Assistant Superintendent at the Philippine Military Academy.       It is said that a true warrior is also the most ardent advocate of peace and development.       Salamat championed peacebuilding initiatives through effective stakeholder collaborations and "bayanihan" with the member of communities, pursued significant peace and development advocacies and adopted an innovative approach in the protection of maritime areas and the country’s territory.      Just a few days before his retirement, Salamat led a very symbolic gesture of hoisting of the Philippine flag and the singing of the national anthem at Mavulis, the northernmost island of the Philippine archipelago.       “Atin ito!,” Salamat must have said as he executed a snappy salute to the flag.       “Looking back, I never dreamt that I would have reached this far in my career but I do remember my patience, hard work and living responsibly each day.       “One thing for sure, the Sovereign God is in total control and He is the one who makes our destiny possible.       “But this destiny will not automatically happen... You need to possess four traits: attitude, discipline, hard work and faith.”      Salamat, his wife Claire and children Christelle Ann, Nathaniel and Eldrid Jaser were already planning a  long well-deserved family vacation after Salamat’s retirement.        But  I guess that will have to be cut short because of President Duterte’s invitation for Salamat to serve as new MWSS Chair.       Note: Please feel free to share the foregoing article via Facebook and/or Twitter.

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The Japanese model of longevity (Part 2)

July 8, 2019

Steve Jobs once said, "You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward." Even the Great Confucius explained that if we want to define the future, we have to study the past.      In an insightful research made by authors Schwartz and Bergfeld, the pointed to Japan as the only country that seemed to challenge the 3rd generation curse much better that others. But it is not only the extreme cases of very old companies that are baffling business experts. In fact, the overall life expectancy of a Japanese family business is higher than the standard corporate life of an enterprise. According to professor Toshio Goto from the Japan University of Economics in Tokyo, the average lifetime of a Japanese family business in 2005 was 52 years, more than double that of its American counterparts.      It is also noteworthy to acknowledge that a surprising number of businesses in Japan have been in existence for 100 years or longer. Such longevity may hold useful lessons for new businesses to use as reference. What are some of the ways in which these long standing enterprises have managed to endure? What then can the unique Japanese approach teach us about longevity? A nationwide Japanese survey counted more than 21,000 companies older than 100 years. Of these, about 1,200 firms have been in existence for at least 200 years, and some 400 businesses for at least 300 years. On the other hand, around 30 Japanese firms have endured for 500 years or more, and 7 have been in existence for more than a thousand years!      One Japanese family owned business that symbolizes longevity with a rich history spanning 500 years is worth sharing. This company has grown big and evolved into a well-respected corporate venture that has become known in Japan and the rest of the world. If family businesses from around the globe strive for future prosperity and family survival in an increasingly volatile complex and ambiguous world (VUCA), how does a tradition-rich company managed to keep pace with an ever-changing world?      Toraya Confectionery Co. Ltd. is a Japanese confectionery company founded by Enchu Kurokawa in  the early 16th century, Kyoto. Toraya, a maker of wagashi (traditional Japanese confections), was a supplier to the imperial court during the reign of Emperor Goyozei, which was from 1586 to 1611. Toraya established a foothold in Tokyo in 1869, after the national capital was trasferred there on the heels of the Meiji Restoration. At present, Toraya has three factories and approximately 80 shops throughout Japan, in addition to a boutique in Paris.      In its English webpage, the first clearly documented reference to Toraya is an existing temple records from 1600. There are also records dated September 15, 1635 that provides a glimpse into the company's business at the time of proprietor Enchu Kurokawa's death. I will walk the reader and articulate each of Toraya's longevity principles as manifested in their 500 years of existence. Value No. 1 - It is Important to Focus on the Present      Toraya's current president, Kurokawa Mitsuhiro, the seventeenth to take the helm, does not spend too much time dwelling on his company's illustrious past. Kurokawa believes focus on what needs to be done now, rather than simply following the ways of the past, is what has kept Toraya in business all these years and also allowed it to preserve many of its traditions.      To be continued...

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The Dreamer just Keeps Going

July 8, 2019

When he pioneered in land reclamation in the Philippines more than four decades ago, Delfin J. Wenceslao, Jr. (alternatively Ding or DingW or DJW for short) dreamed of helping build the nucleus of a modern city center just off Manila Bay. The dream is now a reality. D.M. Wenceslao and Associates, Inc (DMWAI) – a company founded by his father Delfin, Sr. (Tatang) - has helped government in the reclamation of at least 2 million square meters from the sea. On these reclaimed lands now stands DMWAI’s flagship, Aseana City, which includes familiar landmarks like Solaire, Resorts World’s West Side City and City of Dreams. At 75, Ding Wenceslao shows no sign of slowing down.  Although he has relinquished the CEO position to his youngest son, Delfin Angelo or Buds, Ding is still very much on top of setting strategic directions for the company. Buds is a Green and Blue grad (La Salle High and Ateneo College), with a Masters  degree from MIT. DMWAI recently went public in the very first Initial Public Offering (IPO) this year. Of the funds raised during the IPO, the company intends to spend P11 to P12 Billion over the next five years to fund various real estate development projects, (both commercial and residential) within Aseana City and outside. Ding’s company boasts an enviable record. As one of the very select AAAA general contractors in the country, DMWAI has already completed over a 100 construction and infrastructure projects throughout the country. But Ding has quite a few more items in his “dream list” aside from the company’s core business. More immediate is the completion of a church within Aseana City dedicated to the memory of St. John Paul II. The imposing edifice is now 2/3 complete and should be ready sometime in 2019. According to the family, It's a fulfillment of Ding’s promise in gratitude for answered prayers. Ding, however, is mum on the details. In college, Ding and I served together as officers in the Ateneo Air Force ROTC. We even underwent summer cadre training together at the Philippine Air Force headquarters in Nichols (now Villamor) Air Base. However, another proposed project on Ding’s plate, has nothing to do with the air force at all. Rather, it is for the navy.   Ding has blue prints for a naval system which could be adopted not only for coastal defense but also for disaster relief. The system consists of a Mother Ship (“Nanay”) which could carry several high speed and very maneuverable boats (‘Kumpit”). “Nanay” would operate much like an aircraft carrier except that it will be carrying small hi-speed boats instead. The naval system can be fabricated right here in Cavite, Ding said. It would be worthwhile for Ding’s tocayo, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, to take a look at this project. Ding proposes to Design-Finance-Construct on a Turnkey Basis the prototype of this naval system. Ding also has proposals to help ease the traffic along EDSA. The first stage (EDSA Shuttle) involves the lease and management of of two inner lanes of EDSA going both directions. The project proponent will install semi-permanent barriers to segregate the EDSA Shuttle Lane from the regular vehicles along EDSA. The proposed system, Ding contends, will enable vehicles in the shuttle lane to run at speeds of 60 kph. The second stage involves a proposed underground toll way and subway along EDSA from Ayala to SM North EDSA. This can be undertaken, Ding said, by a consortium consisting of EEI Corporation, IPM Construction and Development Corporation, Sta. Clara International Corporation and DM Wenceslao and Associates. Secretary Art Tugade should find the proposals, at the very least, interesting. A personal advocacy to make many Filipinos feel “less poor” has prompted Ding to partner with like-minded friends to launch the Ninong Project. Ninong is under the auspices of Katipunan ng mga Mamamayan ng Bagong Pilipinas Foundation Inc. (KMBPFI), a service NGO duly accredited by the the DSWD. Very simple, affordable and easily duplicable, Ninong involves raising of donations (equivalent to the price of one kilo of rice) and distributing the rice to selected “poorest of the poor” families. Rice distribution is done every Saturday in Baclaran, Don Galo, La Huerta, San Dionisio, Sto. Nino, Tambo, Vitalez (all in Parañaque) and in Bulacan, Bulacan. A firm believer of “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”, Ding is a product of San Beda GS ‘56, UP HS ‘60, Ateneo Col ‘64 and PMA ‘66 (Honorary).

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A “win-win” for all

July 8, 2019

Under the People’s Small Scale Mining Act of 1991, the Bangko Sentral is supposed to buy the gold produce of small miners. The purchased gold is then refined into world quality gold bars at the BSP’s Security Plant Complex in Quezon City. The gold bars are then sold in the world market but some are physically kept in the BSP’s vault. For a long while, everything went well. Everybody was happy. The small miners just walked in any of the gold buying stations nationwide of the BSP - in Quezon City, Baguio, Davao, Zamboanga and Naga - and were promptly paid. The BSP kept growing its gold reserves. Then, BIR Commissioner Kim Henares stepped in sometime in 2011. Henares insisted on automatically withholding 5 per cent on sales of gold to the BSP. No ifs and buts about it. That’s the law, Henares insisted. She was actually correct but unfortunately, Henares failed to anticipate the consequences of her decision. In the end, Henares was able to collect a whooping five per cent of nothing! Worse, the small miners got scared, stayed away from BSP and sold their gold in the black market. According to BSP Deputy Governor Diwa Guinigundo, the purchase of gold by the BSP plummeted and the production of gold bars practically went pffft. From 2005 to 2011, the BSP bought an average of 900 thousand troy ounces of gold which produced 2,500 gold bars a year. This plunged to only 35 thousand troy ounces, yielding 79 bars the year Henares stepped in. On Henares’ last year as BIR Commissioner, sales to the BSP further declined to 14 thousand troy ounces or the finished equivalent of only 25 gold bars. BSP averted a layoff of employees who were engaged in gold refining by retooling and re- assigning them elsewhere in BSP’s Security Plant Complex. But the major collateral fallout, explained Guinigundo, was the reduction of BSP’s ability to build up its foreign exchange reserves.   The steep drop in gold bullion production was immediately noticed by Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, when he joined the Bangko Sentral Monetary Board as government representative in 2016. From where he sat, Dominguez saw the bigger picture and immediately took the pragmatic preliminary step to reverse the alarming situation. Dominguez reduced the withholding tax rate on the sale of gold to the BSP via a revenue regulation and then worked with Congress to amend the National Internal Revenue Code. The result was the filing in Congress of House Bill 3297 ( co-authored by Evalina Escudero, Ronald Cosalan, Speaker Gloria Arroyo, Joseph Paduano, Elisa Kho, former Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, Rudy Fariñas and Dakila Cua) and the equivalent measure in the Senate. Last week, Malacañan announced that President Duterte has signed into law Republic Act 11256. The law removes the 5 per cent withholding tax and the the 2 per cent excise tax on the sale of gold to the Bangko Sentral. If everything works out as envisioned, the small miners are expected to troop back to the BSP, instead of the black market where they are frequently short-changed. The move is also expected to allow the BSP to grow its international reserve without spending dollars since the purchase of gold from the small miners will paid for with pesos. The amendment is really a “win-win”, according to newly re-elected senator Sonny Angara, who sponsored the “gold bill” in the senate.

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Bank of the Philippine Islands – digital frontrunner

July 8, 2019

Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI), the oldest bank in the  Philippines, continues its tradition of notching many “firsts” in the industry. Over the past 60 years - spanning the Mainframe Era (featuring IBM and supercomputers),  the Self Service Era (characterized by the ATMs) and Experience Era (during the advent of the smartphones) -  BPI has been front and center in banking technology. In today’s  digital age,  the 167-year old bank  intends to do no less. According to President/CEO Bong Consing,  BPI has over the last three years started  building its foundational digital infrastructure designed to build capacity  and capability in new cutting edge ways. The intended  results are increased security, increased business volume , improved turnaround time, and enhanced customer experience. The objective, according to Consing,  “is to make the experience of BPI clients seamless as they move from physical channels, like our branches, to our digital channels, like BPI Online and BPI Mobile.”    “Our digitalization will allow for an omni-channel experience, with clients being able to start a transaction in one channel and complete it in another,” Consing added.   “Digitalization will empower our clients as they will be able to bank with us at any time wherever they may be, and in a manner that is responsive to their particular requirements.” Already, the first  phase of digitalization has  supported a 13.8% average annual increase in transaction volumes over the same period, Consing said. Further, Consing said digitalization will provide more impetus to the bank’s thrust towards financial inclusion. “Digitalization will allow us to become more financially inclusive by significantly increasing our engagement with segments of the market where the banking system as a whole is woefully under- represented. “These are small and medium scale companies (or SMEs) and the lower-middle and lower- income customer segments.”   Consing cited the case of BPI Direct BanKo, a wholly owned subsidiary, whose clients will  benefit significantly from digitalization. BanKo  caters to self-employed micro-entrepreneurs  (SEMEs), such as public market stall operators, and operators of beauty salons and neighborhood bakeries. BanKo makes loans to self-employed micro-entrepreneurs such as a stall operator in a public market, a beauty salon operator, or a neighborhood bakery. In its short history, BanKo has made over Php 4 billion in loans to almost 60,000 entrepreneurs. Of course, the implementation of digitalization is not without its problems. “A useful analogy,” according to BPI Chair Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, (JAZA)  “is one where you decide to fundamentally rebuild your house while still living inside. “It can be unpleasant and many of our clients were (recently) inconvenienced in painful, abrupt and unexpected ways.” While expressing deep regret for the recent incident, JAZA expressed confidence that “we are over the painful hump and have completed the most difficult steps of our backroom upgrade.” That said, let us see how BPI performed last year despite a very challenging environment characterized by high inflation, weakened peso, and  weak equity market. BPI showed solid numbers across all metrics: 9.5 per cent increase in assets (exceeding two trillion),  12.7 % growth in loans, strong CASA ratio at 72 per cent, all-time high loan-to-deposit ratio of 85.4 per cent, revenue growth of 10.6 per cent. BPI also completed three major capital raising activities last year – P 50 billion stock rights offering (SRO), additional equity via a US Dollar 600 million international bond and a P25 billion domestic bond – the largest in Philippine corporate history. (Disclosure: This writer was an officer of BPI prior to joining government in 1986. He  rejoined BPI as an independent director in 2016. He also sits in the board of BPI Asset Management and Trust Corporation, and BPI Direct BanKo. )

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Ateneo Law School “hangs” 3 SC justices

July 8, 2019

Following tradition, the Ateneo Law Alumni Association, Inc. (ALAAI) the other week “hanged” three sitting Supreme Court Associate Justices in the Justitia – the Ateneo Law School Moot Court. Unveiled and “hanged” for permanent display were the oil portraits of Associate Justices Alfredo Benjamin S. Caguioa, Andres B. Reyes, Jr. and Alexander G. Gesmundo – who were the most recent contributions of the Ateneo Law School to the highest court. Ateneo Law golden jubilarians – led by Lawyer Victor Alimurung and former BIR Commissioner Jose Mario Buñag – had commissioned the painting of the oil portraits of the three Associate Justices, for permanent display in the school’s Moot Court, situated within the Joaquin Bernas Center For Continuing Legal Education. The new oil portraits joined those of other Ateneo law alumni who had earlier been appointed to the Supreme Court. They include those of two former Chief Justices – Claudio Teehankee (16 th Chief Justice) and Renato C. Corona (23 rd Chief Justice) – and ten Associate Justices, namely: Venicio T. Escolin – 1981-1986 Lorenzo R. Relova – 1982-1986 Edgardo L. Paras – 1986-1992 Leo O. Medialdea – 1988-1992 Sabino R. De Leon – 1999-2002 Adolfo S. Azcuna – 2002-2009 Arturo D. Brion – 2008-2016 Roberto A. Abad – 2009 –2014 Mariano C. del Castillo – 2009 – to the present, and Estela M. Perlas Bernabe – 2011 – to the present. Prior to his appointment as 174 th Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, Caguioa served as Acting Secretary of Justice and Chief Presidential Legal Counsel under President Benigno Aquino III. Caguioa finished elementary in Ateneo in 1973, then high school in 1977. He obtained his Economics degree from Ateneo de Manila University  in 1981, and acquired his Bachelor of Laws from Ateneo Law School  in 1985 where he ranked 5th in his class. On the same year he ranked 15th on the Bar Exam and was admitted to the Philippine Bar the following year.   Caguioa’s late father, former Court of Appeals Justice Eduardo P. Caguioa, taught Civil Law at the Ateneo. Reyes is the 177 th Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. He graduated from Ateneo Law in 1976. But before that, he completed Economics at the St. Mary’s College of California and a Masters in Public Administration at the Philippine Women’s University. Reyes previously served as a Prosecutor, then as a Judge at the Metropolitan Trial Court of Makati City, and later as a Judge at the Regional Trial Court of San Mateo, Rizal. He became Associate Justice of the appellate court in 1999. In 2010, he was appointed as Presiding Justice of the Court of Appeals. Reyes is a third generation jurist. His father, Andres C. Reyes, Sr. also served as Presiding Justice of the Court of Appeals. His grandfather, Alex A. Reyes, Sr., was a former Supreme Court Associate Justice. Gesmundo became the 178 th Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. After finishing law in 1984, he immediately started working as a trial attorney at the Office of the Solicitor General. In 1988 he was named Most Outstanding Solicitor. He became Assistant Solicitor General in 2002.  For a time, he was seconded as Commissioner of the Presidential Commission on Good Government. At the time of his appointment to the high court, Gesmundo was Associate Justice of the Sandiganbayan. Gesmundo was an examiner in Remedial Law in the 2009 and 2015 Bar Examinations. Jubilarian (Law ’68) Class Perpetual President Vic Alimurung was ecstatic. He told the attendees: “One can expect that more Law Alumni will also be appointed to the Supreme Court in the foreseeable future. It would certainly do well for us to remember the inspiring words of St. Thomas More, our Law School’s patron, who famously said: “I am the King’s Good Servant, but God’s first.” The “hanging” ritual was witnessed by: Retired Supreme Court Associate Justices Adolfo S. Azcuna, Arturo D. Brion and Spouse Tonette, Roberto A. Abad and Spouse Vicky, Cristina Corona (widow of CJ Renato C. Corona); Mrs. Pier-Angela P. Caguioa Court of Appeals Associate Justices Rodil V. Zalameda and Manuel M. Barrios, Sandiganbayan Associate Justices Ma. Theresa Dolores C. Gomez-Estoesta, Zaldy V. Trespeses and Bayani H. Jacinto; Court of Tax Appeals Associate Justice Erlinda Piñera Uy, Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon Gerard A. Mosquera, The Dean of the Ateneo College of Law – Jose Maria G. Hofileña, ALAAI officers and trustees – Ma. Filomena Legaspi-Rosales (President), Remedios Montecastro Lim (Vice President),Teodoro B. Cruz, Jr.. (Chair), Aleli Angela G. Quirino (Vice Chair), Tranquil Gervacio S. Salvador III, Ramon Torralba, Jr.; Other Ateneo Law golden jubilarians: former Ambassador Alberto “Dodo” Encomienda, retired practitioner and now agri-businessman Manuel “Manny” Jimenez, former Immigration Officer and Assistant City Prosecutor Edgardo “Gary” Mendoza, Lawyer Francisco “Paco” Pangilinan (who planed in from Canada), Lawyer-Evangelist Jose “Joe” Villanueva and this writer.

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