WHAT an extraordinary coincidence!
In the same week that Forbes magazine unveiled its listing of the 10 richest Filipinos, Pope Francis, in an address in Rome to UN secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon and the UN chief executives board, called on governments around the world to redistribute wealth and benefits to the poor in a new spirit of generosity to help curb the “economy of exclusion” that is taking hold today. Always remarkable for both timing and eloquence, Pope Francis lashed out at the injustices of capitalism and the global economic system. In his meeting with the UN executives, he called on the United Nations to promote a “worldwide ethical mobilization” of solidarity with the poor. While the Philippines is predominantly Catholic and most Filipinos revere the new pope, his latest message should not cause the country’s richest to panic and pack up their belongings. His address was not a call to arms, but much more measured and reasonable.
TEN RICHEST FILIPINOS
Forbes magazine’s new listing of the richest Filipinos reported some changes in the rankings and changes in the financial circumstances of the wealthiest.
The top 10, listed from the 10th to the richest of all and their financial circumstances, are as follows:
#10. Andrew Gotianun, 86
Net Worth: $1 Billion
Main Company: Filinvest Development
Source of Wealth: Real Estate, Banking
From #17 last year, Andrew Gotianun has risen to no. 10. He maintained his net worth at $1 billion, which is mainly from Filinvest Development.
#9. Robert Coyiuto, Jr., 61
Net Worth: $1.5 Billion
Main Company: Prudential Guarantee & Assurance
Source of Wealth: Power transmission, insurance
Another gainer for this year is Robert Coyiuto Jr., who was previously at #12. His assets are mostly from his stocks at the National Grid Corporation, a power transmission company in the Philippines. His father, Robert Coyiuto Sr, was a veteran of the insurance industry who built the Prudential Guarantee & Insurance Company, which is one of the country’s largest insurance companies today. He owns PGA Cars, a distributor of luxury cars, brands like Porsche, Audi, Lamborghini and Bentley.
#8. Tony Tan Caktiong, 61
Net Worth: $1.7 Billion
Main Company: Jollibee Foods
Source of Wealth: Fast food
Where in the world is McDonalds not the number one fast food chain? In the Philippines, of course. Tony Tan Caktiong started his empire in 1975 with two small ice cream parlors. He has currently a number of fast-food chains around the world totaling nearly 2,700 stores. The company is exploring the Middle East for future expansion.
#7. George Ty, 81
Net Worth: $2.3 Billion
Main Company: Metrobank
Source of Wealth: Banking
Metrobank is the Philippines’ second biggest lender, second only after Banco de Oro. He also holds shares in GT Capital that has investments diversified in real estate, power and banking operations. He moved from 9th place last year to 7th place this year. Ty also has investments in Toyota Motor Philippines, and Philippine AXA Life Insurance.
#6. David Consunji, 92
Net Worth: $2.7 Billion
Main Company: DMCI
Source of Wealth: Construction
From last year’s #8 ranking, construction magnate David Consunji rose to the #6 spot as the demand for real estate in the Philippines has dramatically increased. David started his career as a concrete inspector and founded DMCI in 1954 in Manila. DMCI’s notable clients are the Philippine government and the sultanate of Brunei. Two of its projects are Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 1 and the Sultan of Brunei’s Palace.
#5. John Gokongwei, 86
Net Worth: $3.9 Billion
Main Company: Cebu Pacific
Source of Wealth: Aviation, telecoms
The founder of JG Summit has investments in aviation, telecoms, property development, banking, hotels and power generation. The IPO of Robinsons Retail Holdings, raised over $620 million, the largest since 2013.
#4. Enrique Razon, 54
Net Worth: $4.5 Billion
Main Company: International Container Terminal Services
Source of Wealth: Ports and Casinos
After Razon inherited his father’s company in 1995, International Container Terminal Services became a global player operating in 27 ports across 19 countries. Parts of his wealth are from casinos, particularly Solaire Resort and Casino in Manila Bay. Analysts project that over the next 10 years Razon will remain or rise in the Top 10 with the continuing expansion of the Philippine economy
#3 Andrew Tan, 61
Net Worth: $4.6 Billion
Main Company: Alliance Global Group
Source of Wealth: Food and Beverage, Real Estate and Gaming
Tan owns several rights to operate casinos in the Philippines, namely Resorts World and Genting. He also owns and manages the Emperador Distilleries, one of the biggest producers of brandy in the world, which he listed publicly in 2013.
#2 Lucio Tan, 79
Net Worth: $7.5 Billion
Main Company: Asia Brewery
Source of Wealth: Food and Beverage, Real Estate and Consumer Goods
In addition to Asia Brewery, Tan owns stakes in Philip Morris Fortune Tobacco, which has 80% share of the Philippine cigarette and tobacco market. He also owns stakes in the Philippine National Bank and Philippines Airlines, which he sold to San Miguel Corporation.
#1 Henry Sy, 89
Net Worth: $11.4 Billion
Main Company: SM Prime Holdings
Source of Wealth: Real Estate and Banking
The Philippines’ richest person, Henry Sy, is the Mall King, with over 50 malls in the country and a few overseas. Besides being the Mall King, he is also the owner of Banco de Oro (BDO), the biggest bank in the Philippines in terms of assets. He started his career as a shoestore salesman in Quiapo and built his way up. His SM group has also moved heavily into property development and tourism investments.
Analysts describe the year 2013 as a year of leaps and bounds for the Philippines, as the stock market reached its all-time high index of 7,403.65 and a growth in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of 7.2%. Robust growth in the real estate and manufacturing sectors contributed to the growth. As the country embarks on more intensive infrastructure building and property development over the next three years, the prospects look even brighter for Filipino billionaires.
The question which many will be asking, following the release of the Forbes list, is where are the Zobels of Ayala Corporation, Ramon Ang and Danding Cojuangco of San Miguel, Manuel Pangilinan of PLDT, and others in the rankings.
Did any of them experience a major financial reversal? Did Forbes falter in its fact-checking?
Attacking the root causes of poverty
In his address to the UN executives, the Holy Pontiff said that a more equal form of economic progress can be had through “the legitimate redistribution of economic benefits by the state, as well as indispensable cooperation between the private sector and civil society.”
He urged the U.N. to promote development goals that attack the root causes of poverty and hunger, protect the environment and ensure dignified labor for all.
While some feared that the pope in his remarks could be endorsing totalitarian socialism, others have argued that the Pope’s words spoke of the opposite – a call to voluntary private charity, using the Biblical example of Zacchaeus, a corrupt tax collector who saw the error of his ways after meeting Jesus. Zacchaeus was also a thieving abuser of government power who enriched himself by looting taxpayers – a record reminiscent of all Filipino government officials now being denounced for their role in the billion-peso pork barrel scam.
It is not a mere speech of platitudes, but a serious call for reform.
Pope Francis clearly sees a role for government in his vision of “legitimate redistribution.”
An essential component of his vision is a humble and prudent State. He does not believe in throwing money at problems, or undertaking massive welfare programs. Rather, he envisions new and creative ways of empowering the poor to raise their incomes and achieve a better life for themselves and their loved ones.
To serious Catholics, an awareness of the dignity of each of our brothers and sisters should lead us to share with complete freedom the goods which God’s providence has placed in our hands, material goods but also intellectual and spiritual ones, and to give back generously and lavishly whatever we may have been fortunate to possess.
The Pope’s address deserves thoughtful study — by the rich, by our policymakers and by the whole society — because we all must face the stark reality that the legions of our poor and jobless are growing, and that we desperately need new and imaginative solutions for creating new jobs and lowering the misery index.
Growing out of poverty
The easiest position to take is to envy the richest among us, and to enjoin them to share more of their wealth with our people. Yet we already have laws and regulations in place that fully tax their high incomes and assets. And most, and their companies are not slouches in spreading their good fortune via philantrophic endeavors. And let us not forget that our top 10 richest are among the biggest employers in this country.
The real answer, let’s face it, is not redistribution, but growing as a nation out of poverty.
When the fever of corruption subsides after the pork barrel scandal, and with the national economy as a growth pacesetter in the Asia-Pacific, maybe then our people and our county will have a chance.
President Aquino does not have the vision, the skill and the time to lead us to this better future. This hope we must entrust to his replacement in 2016.