Water is a human right and should be a public service. But did you know how much it boosts private profits of the country’s richest oligarchs?
MANUEL “MANNY” VILLAR JR.
Manny Villar, real estate magnate and former senator, has gone from swimming in a sea of garbage to becoming the Philippines’ richest person according to Forbes magazine. Part of his wealth comes from privatized water services – his PrimeWater Infrastructure Corp. has aggressively expanded in the last few years to more than 37 local water districts nationwide.
Pres. Duterte recently hinted at Villar and PrimeWater as a possible replacement of the Ayala family’s Manila Water and Salim-Consunji Consortium’s Maynilad. The two water firms have come under fire due to onerous provisions in their concession agreements which led to international arbitrational court decisions favoring them and ordering the government to pay billions of pesos.
But Villar’s wealth really came from real estate and property development through his Golden Bria Holdings and Vista Land & Lifescapes. He also operates retail stores and malls through All Day shops and Starmalls, Inc.
His wife Cynthia is a Senator, his son Mark is part of Duterte’s cabinet as the secretary of the Department of Public Works and Highways, and only daughter Camille is a Las Pinas Congreswoman. In 2009, Villar made headlines by being accused of diverting public infrastructure to benefit his family’s business real estate projects.
Another notable businessman is Davao-based Dennis Uy who, according to the president’s Statement of Contributions and Expenditures, donated around Php30 million to his presidential campaign. Uy submitted unsolicited PPP proposals for the Monkayo Bulk Water Supply project, and the Nabunturan Bulk Water Supply. Uy’s Udenna holding company is also the parent company of Calapan Water.
Udenna took over responsibility for the development of mixed-use development Clark Global City in 2017. Uy is looking to get involved in Php97.5 billion worth of Davao-based public infrastructure projects.
Data from the Public-Private Partnership Center shows that Uy has three unsolicited proposals in Davao that include the Davao International Airport worth Php48.8 billion, Davao People Mover worth Php30 billion, and the Davao Sasa Port Modernization Project worth Php18.7 billion. Another unsolicited proposal of Uy is the Pasay City Reclamation Project worth Php62 billion.
The Uy-led Mislatel consortium recently received its license to operate as the country’s third telco player and will reportedly be spending some Php257 billion to set up its infrastructure and provide services.
Uy was the subject of a Senate probe early this year on his close ties with the president and some of his Cabinet members including, through a relative, the finance secretary, sitting in the oversight committee selecting the third telco. He also owns Phoenix Petroleum and Chelsea Logistics Holdings Corp.
Ramon Ang is the president and chief executive officer of Top Frontier Investment Holdings, which is San Miguel Corporation’s (SMC) largest shareholder. SMC has interests in the water sector through the Php24.4 billion Bulacan Bulk Water Supply Project, a public-private partnership with the Korean firm K-Water Resources Corporation.
SMC is the Philippine’s largest corporation and is among the most diversified conglomerates with stakes in food and beverage, packaging, property development, tollways, rail, oil, power generation, manufacturing, ports and banking. Named as one of Duterte’s campaign donors, Ang (through SMC) has also bagged multiple projects under the Build Build Build program. These include the Php62.7 billion MRT Line 7 and the Php24.2 billion Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway.
The company is not without controversy. For instance, communities around SMC’s Consolidated Power Corporation’s 300-megawatt coal-fired power plant in Limay, Bataan are asking for this to be shut down for the harm that it brings to their health and the environment.
JAIME ZOBEL DE AYALA
Famously known for their malls and condominiums in urban centers across the country, the Ayala family has interests in many other sectors. This includes privatized water services through Ayala Corporation’s subsidiary Manila Water. The water service provider’s net income more than doubled (137% growth) in the last decade, reaching Php6.6 billion in 2018, before falling into controversy for water shortages affecting millions of Metro Manila residents.
The Ayalas have significant interests in real estate with Ayala Land’s net income growing by 16% to Php29.2 billion in 2018. The company tagline is “Enhancing land, enriching lives” but many Ayala projects are notorious for violent demolitions of urban poor communities, such as to clear the North Triangle EDSA area, and for displacing agrarian reform beneficiaries. They have also cashed in on Duterte’s Build Build Build program and bagged infrastructure deals like the Php4 billion Taguig Integrated Terminal.
THE CONSUNJI SIBLINGS
The Consunji siblings are the 13th richest in the Philippines, according to Forbes magazine. They head DMCI Holdings, which owns one-fourth (25%) of Maynilad Water whose net income from privatized water services grew five-fold (423%) from Php1.3 billion in 2007 to Php 6.8 billion in 2017. Maynilad has come under fire for water disruptions that have been affecting millions of Metro Manila residents. DMCI Holdings is also a construction giant and was a key player in building the Makati and Ortigas business districts. The family bagged several Build Build Build projects, including the Laguna segment of the Php35.4 billion Cavite-Laguna Expressway. The Consunjis also have stakes in power generation, real estate, infrastructure, and mining.
Speaking of mining, DMCI Holdings’ subsidiary Semirara Mining and Power Corporation (which grossed Php42 billion in 2018) has been repeatedly implicated in mining disasters. Nine miners were reportedly killed when their Panian open mine pit collapsed in 2015. More recently, another accident in their Molave open pit in 2018 reportedly killed a worker and injured two others.