Energy chief, bold trader make wave

Philippine Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Alfonso Cusi answers questions during a Reuters interview at the DOE headquarters in Taguig city, Metro Manila, Philippines February 27, 2017. REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco

For businessman and politician Alfonso “Al” Cusi, 14 is a lucky charm which marked his succession line at the Department of Energy (DoE).

Born on 4 December 1949 in Oriental Mindoro, Cusi was educated at the University of St. La Salle in Bacolod (formerly known as La Salle College Bacolod) and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in 1972. He pursued further studies at the University of the Philippines Cebu and earned a Master of Business Administration in 1976.

Cusi started his career in shipping as an assistant comptroller of the then Aboitiz Shipping Company in 1973, now the 2GO Group. He later on worked his way up the ladder and held several managerial positions for the company and its subsidiaries, with posts such as credit collection manager, purchasing manager, passage and stevedorial manager and trucking manager.

In 1977, he was promoted as assistant to the president and in 1985 became the general manager and executive vice president. He resigned from the company as senior vice president and director in 1990, earning a broad and extensive experience in the shipping industry.

He then found his way into shipping, logistics and distribution and founded the Starlite Ferries offering roll-on/roll-off services between his hometown Mindoro, Batangas and Aklan.
Cusi is now spearheading a rational development of the energy sector to be led by the private sector to backstop the surging economy.

Cusi has lately called on energy sector stakeholders to look for new investment opportunities that will come as a result of rising power demand as he estimated energy requirements by 2040 to reach 43,765 megawatts.

He said the DoE, National Electrification Administration and Philippine Rural Electric Cooperatives are strengthening their collaboration to provide electricity to unserved and underserved areas by 2020.

Swift energy services

When he was appointed Energy Secretary, Cusi pledged to achieve electrification for the entire country and ensure reliable, steady and affordable power supply. The pledge goes hand-in-hand with the vision for the administration’s infrastructure program.

Under his term, the Energy department was able to immediately re-energize the City of Marawi after it was liberated from Islamic State terrorists. This was one of DoE’s major accomplishments in the year, also the first full year of the Duterte administration.

With the aid of other agencies, the department turned over solar lamps and streetlights to the Task Force Bangon Marawi and the Lanao del Sur Electric Cooperative. DoE continuously plays a vital part in the rehabilitation efforts in Marawi.

Cusi, who is open to nuclear power as an alternative to aid the country’s energy security and energy equity, regularly underscores the importance of investing in the energy industry.

He also closely works with legislators for the passage of the Energy Virtual One Stop Shop (EVOSS) which will streamline the permitting process of energy projects to support the administration’s Ease of Doing Business Act.

EVOSS aims to accelerate the establishment of power plants by expediting the process for investors in the energy sector.

Often referred to as a “silent worker,” the Energy Secretary currently leads the agency in promoting quality, reliable, secure and affordable power while continuously acting on and initiating policies for the energy sector’s growing industry.

DoE became open to a technology-neutral approach to energy under Cusi’s leadership, shifting consideration on different viable options to achieve the country’s energy needs while balancing it with considerations on environmental sustainability.

Drill, drill, drill

The DoE also started in November accepting applications for energy resources exploration under its Philippine Conventional Energy Contracting Program wherein the government offers 14 pre-determined areas for interested parties to invest in drilling activities.

Aside from the pre-determined areas, the DoE also accepted nomination of areas for exploration. “Ensuring reliable, sufficient and affordable electricity entails close cooperation and collaboration with all the partners in the industry,” Cusi said.

“We need to step up to further strengthen and sustain our partnership, especially in terms of building energy resilient infrastructure as well as in the exploration and development of indigenous energy resources,” the DoE chief added.

Cusi also called on Filipinos to save more in 2019 by embracing an energy-efficient lifestyle.
“E-Power Mo means we have that energy ability. Embracing an energy-efficient lifestyle will make our families and our nation more prosperous,” Cusi reminded.

E-Power Mo is a DoE campaign to inform consumers about employing technology to save energy under the current administration’s policy.

“Let us welcome the new year with new perspective, new hopes and new ways in dealing with our daily activities in 2019,” Cusi said.

Davao’s own

In the private sector, the name of businessman Dennis Uy rang loud primarily after the government awarded the third telecommunications slot mainly to resolve the country’s poor Internet connection. The necessity of adding another telecommunications (telco) player was raised by Mr. Duterte to compete against the current giants in the industry and to improve connectivity.

Recently, the government, through the Department of Information and Communication Technology (DICT), held a bid for the third telco player which was won by the Mindanao Islamic Telephone Inc. (MISLATEL).

Similar to President Duterte, the man behind the newest telco player was Davao-based businessman Dennis Uy and, through his Udenna Corp., partnered with the state-run China Telecom to form the MISLATEL consortium.

Touted as the company willing to make the next bold move in the local business sector is Uy’s Udenna Corp., which had created joint ventures with various companies before the MISLATEL project.

The corporation was mainly in the business of distribution and retail of petroleum products and lubricants under the Phoenix brand and became one of the fastest growing and leading independent oil company in the Philippines.

Originally incorporated as Oilink Mindanao Distributions Inc. on 8 May 2002, Phoenix Petroleum is a home-grown company in Davao City and is the first independent oil company to be publicly listed in the local bourse after the passage of the Oil Deregulation Law in 1998.

First to hit bourse

Likewise, the company was the first company from the city to be listed at the Philippine Stock Exchange and was described as one of the country’s most aggressive independent oil companies with its net income skyrocketing at P427 million in 2010 versus the recorded P178 million earnings in 2009.

Securing its biggest deal since it started, the oil company became the exclusive logistics partner of Cebu Pacific in 2005, with the latter among the largest airlines in the Philippines.

Moreover, oil business proves to be robust for Uy and his corporation as Phoenix ranked seventh among the top importer in the country with a whopping P4.7 million in import taxes to the government in 2012.

While his oil business continues to retain its market strength, Uy proved that this is not his only strong suit as he expanded and ventured across other industries.

Through Chelsea Logistics Holdings Corp., the Davao businessman diversified his business by adding a shipping service under its subsidiaries, Chelsea Shipping Corp. and Trans-Asia Shipping Lines Inc.

Chelsea served as the logistics arm of Uy’s Udenna Corp. where it boasts of a total of 3,300 delivery points nationwide, a massive tanker capacity of 65.7 million liters coupled with its huge cargo capacity reaching 7,000 containers.

The Davaoeño tycoon also recognized the positive impact of the government’s infrastructure initiative in the logistics industry as it will create linkages across the archipelago, providing convenience and ease of access to the growing demand for such services.

A sweet breakthrough

As his businesses continue to grow into an empire, Uy didn’t stop diversifying as he made another step towards another industry when he decided to acquire in 10 September 2018 a huge slice of Conti’s Holdings Corp., the holding company that owns and operates Conti’s.

According to him, the transaction that gave Udenna 70 percent stake in the food company will bring strong synergies to its existing portfolio which includes hospitality and tourism and brings expansion to both.

“We are very bullish on the Philippine food industry which was expected with the growing demand for convenience. Specifically, the Philippine food service industry amounts to roughly $7.2 billion and over the past decades has had annual growth of 15 percent to 20 percent,” he said.

To date, the restaurant has 20 stores in Metro Manila and is known for its Mango Bravo, baked salmon and chicken pie.

Realty ventures

On 26 November 2007, the Udenna Development Corp. (UDEVCO) was successfully registered in the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) which marked another milestone for its parent firm, Udenna.

Almost six years after, GoHotels Davao Inc., a joint venture between Robinsons Land Corp. and UDEVCO was registered in SEC.

Moreover, Uy furthered his reach in the industry as he embarked on the resorts and casino business with the development of the Lapu-Lapu Leisure Mactan integrated resort and casino after obtaining a license from the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp.

“Lapu-Lapu Leisure Mactan only marks the beginning of our vision of a world-class leisure, residential and commercial destination in Central Visayas,” he said.

“We see this integrated development taking a major role in bringing the Philippines on par with the region’s premier destinations for leisure, gaming and meetings, as well as for commercial and residential investments,” he added.

The tycoon eyes another resort project to break ground in the first semester of 2019, which will be located in Clark, Pampanga and is expected to be completed by 2022.

According to Udenna, the Clark resort will offer about 600 electronic gaming machines, 100 gaming tables, several hotels with around 400 rooms as well as a retail and restaurant complex.

More ventures

The tycoon didn’t just prove that he is on a business-shopping spree with all the acquisitions and transactions he just made in the past decade, the last few years in particular, but that he is fully capable of managing them all as well.

In 2017, Uy just completed his purchase of the Bonifacio Global City (BGC)-based educational institution Enderun Colleges Inc. through Udenna.

This latest addition to his string of businesses further expands his footprint in the educational space as he also invested in a maritime training school to support his shipping and logistics businesses, which was prior to Enderun’s acquisition.

“We believe that quality education and skills training are what make our human capital more productive and competitive. Our acquisition of Enderun Colleges comes at an opportune time,” Uy said.

Established in 2005, the 1.8-hectare property in BGC houses six buildings that can accommodate an additional 8,200 square meters of classroom space.

Currently, the academy focuses on hospitality management and culinary arts, while also expanding to include business courses in its offerings, such as business administration, entrepreneurship and economics.

Housing some 1,200 full-time college certificate students, Enderun also operates food and beverage outlets both inside and outside the campus premises while delivering management services and marketing solutions to the sector.

Also, in the same year, Uy fully accomplished his aim of purchasing the Philippine Family Mart CVS Inc. (PFM), which is the official franchisee of Family Mart, a convenience store brand in the country that has a total of 67 establishments both owned and franchised nationwide.

According to the Udenna chief, PFM has “built a reputation for convenience and fresh, quality offerings” while expressing his satisfaction with this strategic acquisition for his diversified string of investments in the country.

Jack-of-all trades

With all these ventures in various fields of businesses, Uy proved not only to be a forward-thinking investor and a businessman, but also as someone who wants to challenge his limits coupled with the willingness to take the risk with it.

The emerging tycoon from Davao is now starting to reap the harvest from the big leap he took in the past years.

In a wealth estimate from Forbes, the Uy’s affluence is something that is not to be dismissed as he surpassed some of the notable names in terms of net worth.

With his family’s net worth estimated at P22 billion or $430 million, Uy is even wealthier than the mining tycoon Manuel Zamora who was estimated at $300 million, as well as the triumvirate owners of media firm GMA Network Gilberto Duavit, Menardo Jimenez and Felipe Gozon, who have an estimated net worth of $185 million, $180 million and $160 million, respectively.

Despite his milestones and achievements, Uy disagrees to be called as one of the big guns.

“I am still growing Udenna’s portfolio. We don’t know yet what is really its core business. We are still fixing, cleaning and adding more people to our organization,” he said.

With AJ Bajo

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