“We were fortunate in that we made a decision to sell Alphaland Southgate Tower in March last year. Thus, we have no bank debt at all and have a comfortable cushion of cash. While our operations, including Balesin, have been unfavorably affected by the lockdown, the financial effect on us has been manageable. Thus, we can continue with all of our projects, without missing a beat, to make Balesin a better place for its members.”
— Alphaland Chairman and CEO Roberto V. Ongpin
It seems Roberto V. Ongpin (RVO or Bobby to friends and subalterns) has long prepared for a pandemic and its devastating impact on the health of the people and the economy of the nation.
In 2005, he invested P350 million to build two world-class Aegle Health Clinics to cash in on the looming boom in health care business. Now, the Aegle clinics in Makati and Balesin island have become a vital service for his members-only City Club and Balesin Island Club.
Guests who want to take a respite from city life must take the requisite swab test (P3,000, discounted, with results guaranteed in 30 minutes) for COVID before being allowed to fly to Balesin whose resort facilities are among the best in the world. This ensures that the 500-hectare heavily forested island is COVID-free.
Guests must also get a health package – like nutrition counseling, health checkup, a slimming regimen or intravenous vitamins and minerals –to have an excuse to visit Balesin. The price is from P750 to P25,000.
Aegle has become thus a money spinner for Ongpin’s Alphaland Corp., the owner of City Club, Balesin Island Club, and the Makati Place, a multi-purpose complex in the Philippines’ financial capital. Makati Place is a luxury residential condo, a five-star hotel (it claims to be the No. 1), and an office or corporate headquarters.
Last year, Ongpin had the foresight to sell for P5 billion his Alphaland South building which is cheek by jowl to upscale Magallanes Village. The sale enabled him to wipe out his debts and raise a cash hoard just before the pandemic struck.
Alphaland financially robust
Says Ongpin: “Alphaland, unlike many companies in the Philippines, continues to be financially robust and healthy.”
“We were fortunate in that we made a decision to sell Alphaland Southgate Tower in March last year. Thus, we have no bank debt at all and have a comfortable cushion of cash. While our operations, including Balesin, have been unfavorably affected by the lockdown, the financial effect on us has been manageable. Thus, we can continue with all of our projects, without missing a beat, to make Balesin a better place for its members,” the Alphaland Chairman and CEO adds.
Locked down for seven months at his signature Balesin resort, Ongpin used the time to make large-scale if overdue improvements and renovation.
The result is an ever better Balesin where the rich, famous and aspirational can hie off. “The pandemic has proved that you can live in paradise,” gushed Rico Sison, Ongpin’s whiz kid designer cum planner. Bobby and Rico have been together for 20 years mounting high-end projects starting with Tagaytay Highlands, another signature property development of Ongpin.
Meanwhile, in mid-October, President Duterte lifted the moratorium on oil and gas drilling in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea), after a six-year hiatus that collapsed the market values of listed oil and gas exploration companies. One of those companies is money-losing Atok Big Wedge Co.(AB).
Ongpin owns 58% of AB which has a significant stake in Service Contract 72 which has drilling rights over 880,000 hectares of waters in WPS. The property is called Reed Bank (Recto Bank) Basin whose Sampaguita 3 Field is believed to contain between 3.9 trillion cubic feet and 16 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, valued at between $25 billion and $100 billion.
Last year, Ongpin sold part of his Atok Big Wedge to fast-rising tycoon Dennis Ang Uy of Udenna of Davao. Uy is a close friend of President Duterte which gives the Davao businessman a ringside view of business and economic developments in the current administration. Ongpin is chair of AB; Uy is the vice chairman.
Uy’s Udenna owns Phoenix Petroleum, the country’s fastest-growing gasoline station network. His stake in Atok Big Wedge represents a backward integration into raw materials like crude oil and natural gas.
Udenna already has a 45% stake in SC 38, the Malampaya deep water-to-gas project right of the Reed Bank and wants to buy 100% of the asset. The government PNOC EC owns 10% of Malampaya while Shell owns 45%. Malampaya natural gas supplies 20% of the country’s electricity requirement.
The Sampaguita gas field is five times the size of Malampaya. Malampaya’s gas reserves are estimated to be depleted by 2024.