Well done, billionaire Ricky Razon

By Herbert Vego

IN choosing Iloilo City and suburbs as prime targets for business expansion, billionaire Enrique Razon Jr. has proven himself right. As everybody now knows, he is the investor behind the successful MORE Electric and Power Corp. (MORE Power), the city’s power-distribution utility.

The last time Razon came here to grace the inauguration of the company’s new substation at Iloilo Business Park, he spoke well of the city.

Journalist Tara Yap quoted Razon as having said, “We are proud to have been part of Iloilo’s journey towards progress and will remain committed to contributing in the region’s economic and social development.”

According to Ms. Velma Jane Magno Lao, head of the city’s Local Economic Development & Investment Promotion (LEDIP) Office, sufficient electricity is an important key to the growth of business opportunities in Iloilo City.

“At present,” she said while guesting on our radio program Tribuna sang Banwa on Aksyon Radyo last Sunday, “MORE power utilizes only around 50 percent of its power capacity. The company is certainly capable of responding to bigger demand.”

She lauded the joint efforts of Mayor Jerry Treñas and MORE Power President Roel Castro in attracting more investors at the moment when the city is experiencing a booming economy.

Lao, who is also executive director of the Metro Iloilo-Guimaras Economic Development Council (MIGEDC), was with Treñas and Castro during the First Metro Iloilo-Guimaras Investment Forum held at the Conrad Manila Hotel last November 20. Governors Art Defensor Jr. and JC Rahman Nava represented the provinces of Iloilo and Guimaras, respectively.

MIGEDC, incidentally, is aimed at attracting at least ₱500 million worth of new business investments in the burgeoning Metro Iloilo-Guimaras (MIG) growth area. Metro Iloilo includes Iloilo City and its neighboring towns of Leganes, Pavia, Sta. Barbara, Cabatuan, Oton, and San Miguel.

“We are one,” Lao quoted Defensor as having said.

“It does not mean closure of borders,” she added, “since we cannot stand alone.  It means interdependence with one another.”

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the field of tourism.  For example, with not many tourist destinations in the city to visit, tourists spill over to the adjoining towns of Iloilo and Guimaras provinces.

Iloilo City prides itself as a MICE destination (not what you think). The acronym stands for “meetings, incentives, conferences, and events”.

The iconic Iloilo Convention Center (yes, our own ICC) is capable of hosting up to 3,000 individuals coming for national conventions.

The mushrooming malls, museums, multinational offices and hotels now fill up the vast spaces that used to be our domestic airport.

“Business has recovered from the pandemic,” Lao enthused. “From 89.4 percent in 2021, the employment rate has jumped to 95.1 due to more businesses generated.

By declaring Iloilo City as one of the world’s most creative cities for gastronomy, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has attracted culinary vloggers and travel writers to come and cover our hotels and restaurants. In Lao’s mind, it could be one of the reasons why tourist arrivals have grown by 255%.

Lao lauded Mayor Jerry Treñas for his “vision” that resulted in transforming IIoilo into a livable, progressive, sustainable, and resilient city.

I shared to her the question of an investor friend from Manila: “Ano kaya ang negosyong pwede kong pasukan dito sa Iloilo?”

“I will not suggest,” she quipped. “He knows better what goods or services he has passion for. We can only assist.”

My friend, a manufacturer of ready-to-wear apparels, would like to shift to building homes. He is inclined to invest in homes for retirees in either Sta. Barbara or Leganes. Why not? The cost of living in Iloilo is more or less 25 percent cheaper than in Metro Manila.

I should know.  I had lived in Metro Manila for 11 straight years.