The MANILA ENVELOPE – Of PAG-ASA, Bagong Pag-asa & Asa Ka Pa

MAKATI, Philippines – It continues to rain in fits and starts in Makati. This makes it the sixth day of rain since I got here. As the weather report says:

”Ang Kalakhang Maynila ay makakaranas ng mga pag-ulan dulot ng habagat. Katamtaman hanggang sa malakas na hangin mula sa timog-kanluran ang iiral at ang Look ng Maynila ay magiging katamtaman hanggang sa maalon. Ang tinatayang agwat ng temperatura ay mula 24 hanggang 29 antas ng Celsius (75°F hanggang 82°F).

Ang Luzon at ang Kabisayaan ay makakaranas ng mga pag-ulan dulot ng habagat lalo na ang kanlurang bahagi na maaaring magdulot ng mga pagbaha at pagguho ng lupa. Samantalang ang nalalabing bahagi ng bansa ay magkakaroon ng madalas na maulap na kalangitan na may kalat-kalat na pag-ulan at pagkulog-pagkidlat.

Katamtaman hanggang sa malakas na hangin mula sa timog-kanluran ang iiral sa Luzon at Kabisayaan at ang mga baybaying-dagat sa mga lugar na ito ay magiging katamtaman hanggang sa maalon. Sa ibang dako, ang hangin ay mahina hanggang sa katamtaman mula sa timog hanggang timog-kanluran na may banayad hanggang sa katamtamang pag-alon ng karagatan maliban na lamang kung may mga pagkulog-pagkidlat.

Ok. Those folks at PAG-ASA surely know their Filipino. I also believe this makes it the most rain I’ve seen in ages.

Met up with an old friend from Chino Hills who, like me, has reverse migrated back to the Philippines. He introduced me to a group of his friends and business partners who now fashion themselves as “expats” in their own country. Some of them have been here for quite some time so it would be nice to catch up with them at some point to shoot the breeze about the home country (whichever that may be for them). Anyway, it was nice to have some Chino Hills company.

In the news over the weekend, a particular item caught my eye. The headline read:

”US firm to invest $50 billion in RP project

The investment will be made in the province of Zambales and will reportedly be for projects in tourism, real estate development, infrastructure, agricultural research, indigenous power supply and mineral enhancements. The investment is to be made over a 10-year period. The investor is a US-based company called Swiss Global Connect USA – a partnership of Russian, Japanese and American businessmen incorporated in California.

Let’s suspend reality a little while longer and have a “whoopee” moment. This would be awesome for the Philippines and the province of Zambales.

Okay, enough – back to reality.

$50 billion!@#$%^&*()

That is US dollars baby…Granted the money will supposedly be spent over a period of 10 years – that is still $5 billion or P245 billion a year. That is 16% of the budget for the entire Philippine government for FY2010. That amount is more than what the Department of Education, which will get the most from the budget, will get (P172.8 billion). And for my non-Filipino friends, that is more than twice the capital expenditure budget of Microsoft ($2 billion) for FY 2010. Talk about suspending reality…

…but wait…

Maybe the “American” investor is Warren Buffett. Warren did say he was giving away his estimated $62 billion in net worth albeit to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Maybe Warren changed his mind and decided to give it to Zambales instead…

No dice…

A quick Google check shows the Swiss Global Connect USA is headquartered in West Covina, CA just a couple of exits on the 10-Freeway from my old office. Not exactly a neighborhood where you’d find a multi-billion company with (at least) $50 billion to spare (though I could be wrong).

On to the California Department of State website. A few taps on the keyboard and…Voila! Swiss Global Connect USA is a duly-registered and active company in the great state of California. Same page – Agent for Service of Process…sigh, no Warren Buffett. Instead we get John Taylor (try googling that) whose listed address is an office in a strip mall in Diamond Bar, CA (hey, a stone’s throw from Chino Hills).

Let’s check their website…ummmm, they don’t have one?

Red flags, anyone?

Oh well, at the end of the day they may indeed turn out to be a legitimate firm with a solid track record to be able to deliver on what they have promised. I sincerely hope they are because this would provide a significant boost to the local economy of Zambales and help to alleviate the economic lot of its people. Not to mention the ancillary benefit to the surrounding provinces and Metro Manila with the proposed infrastructure projects.

Hey, I am all for initiative, foresight and creative thinking on the part of local governments. What I am not for is being taken for a ride.

At the very least, someone should be checking up on the track records of these investors and make sure that they are who they say they are and that they can follow through on what they promise. Otherwise, tayong Pilipino din ang mapapahiya…

You know what they say about things that are too good to be true, they usually…

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