Monthly Archives: January 2008

Court orders UCPB to pay client P1 billion

UCPB logo

A PASAY Court has ordered the United Coconut Planters Bank (UCPB) to pay a client an estimated P1 billion after the lender was found to have overcharged E. Ganzon Inc. (EGI), a real-estate developer with properties in Metro Manila. Besides involving attorney’s fees, court suit costs, damages, and interest, the amount covers the various forms of overpayment collected by the Philippines’ thirteenth-largest lender from EGI from April 2000 to May 2001.

In a decision dated December 18, 2007, the court said the company only owed the bank a total of P618 million overall.

In mid-1998, after EGI failed to keep its debt payments current, the lender collected P400 million more than the principal through various transactions undertaken from April 2000 to May 2001. These transactions included foreclosure, or repossessing mortgaged properties whose values were previously agreed upon, and dacion en pago, which allows the use of real-estate assets to pay for debts, provided that both the creditor and the borrower agree on the properties’ values.

Besides declaring that EGI’s debts were already fully settled, the court also instructed the bank to pay the company some P158,378,177.82 in excess of foreclosure proceeds plus 12-percent interest per annum from April 13, 2000 until full payment. This is in addition to P166,127,368.50 in dacion en pago payments plus 12 percent interest per annum from May 8, 2001
aa until full payment, P32,296,77.78 for repossessing movables, furniture, fixtures, and equipment plus 12-percent interest from April 13, 2000 until full payment; P87,578,846.60 for repossessing 28 condominium units in EGI-Rufino Plaza in Taft Avenue plus 12-percent interest until full payment; P1.55 million in court filing fees, P30 million in moral damages, P10 million in exemplary damages, and attorney’s fees equivalent to 10 percent of all amounts due the plaintiff.

“All in all, total payments of plaintiff EGI to UCPB is P1,070,719.368.50, this amount representing the combined value of the foreclosed properties and the properties subject to dacion en pago,” said the decision, penned by Judge Jesus B. Mupas of Pasay’s Regional Trial Court Branch 112.

The UCPB’s lawyer in this case, Atty. Eduardo de Mesa, said he has already filed an appeal to reverse the lower court’s decision.

“EGI is just looking for a way to skip paying its obligations,” de Mesa told the BusinessMirror in a Monday phone interview.

The court had also said that “UCPB committed breach of contract when it foreclosed some of the properties of EGI at merely P723,592,000. The correct valuation of the foreclosed properties is P904,491,052 and it is this amount that must be deemed to have been paid to UCPB when the foreclosure was effected.”

According to the ruling, EGI claimed that “the principal loan amounts, interest charges, transaction costs were padded to reflect a bigger amount of indebtedness.”

For this reason, EGI filed a separate criminal case in a Makati City court against six bank officers in October 2001. Among those named in the suit included Lorenzo V. Tan, the bank’s former president, Jeronimo Kilayko, UCPB corporate secretary and University of the Philippines law professor Virgilio Jacinto, UCPB first vice president Enrique Gana, UCPB vice president Jaime Jacinto, and UCPB assistant vice president Emily Lazaro.

Among the 42 universal and commercial banks in the country, the United Coconut Planters Bank ranked thirteenth in terms of total assets. As of December 2006, its assets amounted to P107 billion, up by 3 percent in the same period in 2005. The bank’s total contingent account in 2006 totaled P41 billion. (With Jesse Edep)

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Originally entitled “UCPB told to pay overcharged debtor,” this story was published at BusinessMirror’s January 23, 2008 print and online editions.

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A heavy toll on the Batangas Port

Editorial cartoon

LIKE all government infrastructure projects, the Port of Batangas was built and conceived with the best of intentions.

A facility located within an economic growth corridor outside Metro Manila, the Batangas Port is expected to boost local and global trade, unlocking huge possibilities to support the country’s continued economic expansion.

Once in full swing, the port would also help lift the Philippine shipping industry out of its rut.

Since nearly 90 percent of all goods around the world are transported by sea—including the ones entering and leaving domestic shores—the port is envisioned to form part of a seamless logistical system, allowing companies to ship their products to and from any point in the country and the world at the least possible cost.

But as with any well-planned, well-funded, and well-intentioned government project, the Batangas Port has its own share of hitches and obstacles.

Bankrolled by a low-interest, long-term Japanese loan, the facility has very little to show for except its excellent potential, which has been sadly left unrealized.

Owing to low shipment volumes, the private cargo-handler tasked to run the port’s domestic terminal has yet to turn in a healthy profit from its operations. This, ten years after the company secured a concession to manage the facility’s domestic shipments.

Fewer cargoes, in turn, were brought about by the lack of necessary road infrastructure within the area.

Not only has this discouraged companies from using the port, the absence of road networks linking the facility to main highways have increased transport costs, forcing shipping and trucking operators to endure inefficiencies in the country’s capital.

Thankfully, with the recent completion of various highway projects in Luzon—including a flyover connecting the Batangas Port diversion road to the port proper—logistics companies may yet give the facility another chance to prove its capabilities.

But that may come later rather than sooner.

As soon as the government announced that a flyover and an access road to the port was nearly complete, the Japanese Bank for International Cooperation requested the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) to levy toll fees on all vehicles using the very same highway project. The request was made because the Japanese bank may already be eager to collect on a P336 million loan which was used for the road network’s construction.

However, once the proposed fee secures approval, it will only give companies another reason to avoid Batangas altogether.

Since it is already more expensive for shippers and truckers to use the port, collecting toll fees on the said highway would threaten Batangas Port’s ambitions to become an alternative to Manila’s harbors.

As it stands, commercial entities in both the transport and logistics sectors are already reeling from the effects of record oil prices, forcing many operators to seek a rate hike. A local association of trucking companies has even compared their operations to a “dead horse,” indicating that rates they currently charge for moving cargo may not even allow them to break even.

Imposing the toll fee—simply on the recommendation of a Japanese agency, however altruistic—would surely make the port fall off the logistical radar screens of these trucking operators.

Although the PPA has announced it will review the Japanese bank’s request, the undertaking, however important, is not enough.

While it is always prudent to scrutinize any proposal—especially if it involves any fees—port officials should nevertheless draft a counter-proposal calling for the fee’s deferral without compromising the government’s obligation to settle loans for the road project.

After all, at stake is a terminal which, if saddled with toll charges, may further suffer from inactivity, diminishing whatever remains of its advantages, both real and imagined.

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Published in BusinessMirror’s January 17, 2007 issue. Editorial cartoon by Jimbo Albano.

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Professor X

ADRIAN Cristobal could have written the great Filipino novel.
Unfortunately, his social, political, and journalistic engagements  arguably prevented him from doing so.
After all, everybody needs to earn their keep, a lesson not lost on Cristobal, who, despite having occupied the helm of the Social Security System (SSS) during the Marcos regime, emerged as one of the Philippines’ highest paid and most versatile literary artists.
His early fame and eventual fortune did little to destroy nor discourage his abilities, allowing him to produce a lecture that dealt with Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech, formulate a preface to an imaginary Philippine literature anthology (in the tradition of Stanislaw Lem and Jorge Luis Borges), and compose I, Suliman, a short story reminiscent of Robert Graves’ I, Claudius and Marguerite Yourcenar’s Memoirs of Hadrian.
Meanwhile, his pieces for dailies and weeklies were as well-written as those produced without a regular deadline, reportedly prompting a female sex therapist to make a flattering but nevertheless risqué comment about his writing style.
He even wrote in Taglish at least twice for his column in a local English language daily. The first was intended to poke fun at the colloquialisms of a certain presidential daughter while the second was to underscore the confusion plaguing the national government’s language policy.
Although he freely admitted that the pieces he wrote for newspapers were “perishable,” Cristobal later agreed to have them published in  Pasquinades, a collection of columns for the defunct Sunday Globe Magazine.
When the book was launched at the Manila Hotel’s Champagne Room in September 1993, Cristobal was, during that period, teaching at the University of the Philippines.
However, unlike lesser mortals, the college dropout never asked nor demanded for a teaching slot.
Cristobal was invited to teach by the state university’s English department, hoping that he would boost its writing program, which, like UP’s coño kids and communists, was not taken very seriously.
To ensure the invitation’s acceptance, Cristobal was offered full use of a small library as his classroom. Named after National Artist for Literature Francisco Arcellana, the room, at that time, was one of the few department facilities that was airconditioned.
While what UP offered was a small consolation—and the pay even smaller—Cristobal agreed to teach in the same institution whose Board of Regents he was a member of decades earlier.
In June 1993, Cristobal began to meet his dozen or so students, which he immediately christened the X-Men, after a group of comic book superhumans whose adventures he followed when a grandson convinced him to read about it.
As a result, his students—mostly English and Mass Communication majors—were instructed to name themselves after any one of the group’s characters.
Shortly after the class adopted the names Storm and Cyclops, among others, Cristobal, not to be outdone, proclaimed himself as Professor X, also known as Charles Xavier, who headed the fictional group.
During the first few meetings, Professor X asked his underlings what they expected from class.
An English major, who adopted the name Bishop, said that he wanted to write like the professor.
“Just having half your wit would be enough,” he said, trying his best to flatter the man of letters.
The professor tried to hide his amusement.
“If that happened,” he replied, “what would that make you?”
The class suddenly fell silent, recognizing that the situation was ripe for a razor sharp one-liner.
“You’d be a half-wit, that’s what,” the professor said, smiling.
The student laughed and took it in stride.
It was, after all, a put-down that could come from the one and only Adrian Cristobal.

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This was published in the January 2007 edition of Personal Fortune, the monthly magazine of BusinessMirror.

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Please help look for lost cat

Booj and Ming

MINGGOY, a seven-year old, grey and white, indoor British shorthair cat disappeared from his UP Village apartment early Friday, January 4, 2008. Slightly indifferent, a bit insensitive but nevertheless lovable, Minggoy is unusually large for a domestic feline, weighing anywhere from 15 to 17 lbs. and measuring slightly less than two feet long. He has grey markings on his face and body. Any information regarding his wheareabouts can be sent via text messaging to +63917 804 3798, transmitted via email to thefutureliesahead at yahoo (dot) com, or posted on his blog, http://minggoy.wordpress.com. A reward awaits the person who helps him reunite with his human family members.

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