December 10, 2023

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BIZ BUZZ: Finally demolished | Inquirer Business

After 15 years of legal tussles, the once-conspicuous Uniwide Coastal Mall along Manila Bay has been demolished.

Only the bridge structure traversing Diosdado Macapagal Boulevard that used to connect the two mall buildings of Uniwide Holdings is left standing.

Recently, however, landowner Manila Bay Development Corp. (MBDC), owned by biscuit magnate Jacinto “Jack” Ng Sr. obtained approval from the Philippine Reclamation Authority to similarly tear down the structure. This will cause a temporary road and lane closure at the Macapagal Boulevard.

Uniwide once operated eight warehouse clubs and two department stores before going bankrupt and filing for debt relief in 1999. Its corporate rehabilitation was later on terminated by the Securities and Exchange Commission. It was likewise delisted from the Philippine Stock Exchange.

Now that the property is being cleared for future redevelopment (and especially given the rise in property values and the development of Manila Bay in recent years as an entertainment hub), we hear that the site is drawing a lot of interest from potential partners. But after the protracted dispute with Uniwide, MBDC has turned very cautious.

Uniwide founder Jimmy Gow has long disputed the Ng group’s bid to recover the 10-hectare property. Mediation attempts, even by common Chinoy friends, have ended futile.

And Gow hasn’t thrown in the towel. He had filed a petition to stop the demolition, which was denied by the local court, but may still be elevated to the Court of Appeals. But as the demolition is almost complete, Gow may have to change his tack.

Watch this space, folks.

—Doris Dumlao-Abadilla

Early job application

Agriculture Secretary William Dar threw his support behind fellow Ilocano and presidential front-runner Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. and expressed his openness to serve as the latter’s chief of the Department of Agriculture (DA).

Dar has also asked his kababayans to help the late dictator’s son return to the Palace.

“I hope [Marcos Jr.] wins. I’m wearing red. I hope the Ilocandia and Cordillera will support him. We’re both Ilocanos so perhaps he will enlist me to serve again,” said Dar in an intimate party celebrating his 69th birthday.

Marcos, the son of former President Ferdinand Marcos and former First Lady Imelda Marcos, kept his lead in the recent polls ahead of the May 9 elections.

“While I’m already 69 years old, I’m still young at heart. I still have the energy and passion to serve our motherland,” Dar told his loved ones.

Dar, born in Sta Maria, Ilocos Sur, earlier signified his willingness to lead the Agriculture department for the third time if given the opportunity.

He marked his comeback to the top DA post in August 2019, succeeding Emmanuel Piñol.

A horticulturist, Dar finished Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Education and Master of Science in Agronomy degrees at the then Mountain State Agricultural College, now known as Benguet State University, in La Trinidad, Benguet.

Dar said he has already laid out the foundation for strengthening the DA. At the same time, he hoped the next administration would continue and strengthen the reforms the DA instituted during his stint as its chief.

He had told reporters the incoming government would have to work to push for greater budgetary support, which is three times the current budget for a total of P250 million, for the vital sector to grow further and unlock its potential.

—Jordeene B. Lagare

Progress report

The daunting initiative of San Miguel Corp. to clean up and rehabilitate the Tullahan and Pasig rivers has, against all odds, made significant progress, allowing both vital waterways to facilitate the flow of larger volumes of water.

What this means is that, barring any force majeure incidents, Metro Manila and its environs should experience less flooding when the rainy season comes in a couple of months.

Reporting on the progress the conglomerate has made recently, San Miguel president and CEO Ramon S. Ang posted on his Facebook account recently that, after 22 months of cleaning up major segments of the Tullahan-Tinajeros River system and nine months of activities at key sections of the Pasig River, the company’s latest hydrographic surveys showed significant improvements in both rivers’ depths and carrying capacity.

In particular, Ang said the Tullahan River’s 10-kilometer stretch that San Miguel’s cleanup teams have dredged now have depths of between three to five meters, compared to one to two meters previously.

This was because the teams removed from the riverbed tons of silt and solid waste, which cause flooding since they restrict both the flow of water and carrying capacity.

For the larger Pasig River, completed sections now measure five to six meters deep from the previous two to three meters, according to Ang.

He added that in Potrero and Marulas, the cleanup teams have removed eroded soil extending up to 15 meters wide.

With this blockage cleared, areas near the Tullahan River like Valenzuela will now experience fewer instances of severe flooding. And any flooding will likely subside faster.

For San Miguel’s Pasig River rehabilitation, work is now focused on the shallow Marikina River junction in Pasig City, which is where the Marikina and Pasig rivers meet.

To date, the combined total of silt and solid waste removed from the Tullahan and Pasig rivers stands at 1.2 million metric tons.

Of this, 876,296 metric tons come from the Tullahan River where teams on the ground estimate to hit the one-million mark by June.

The conglomerate has allotted P1 billion for the program that was launched in 2020. For the P2-billion Pasig River rehab, the company extracts 3,000 tons per day to meet its new 75,000-metric ton per month goal.

There are now two groups in operation in Manila and Pasig City and, in March alone, these two groups removed 78,200 metric tons.

San Miguel is upping its daily extraction target to at least 5,000 metric tons per day in June as more equipment arrive. This is to meet its 125,000-metric ton per month goal and a total of three million metric tons in two years.

Thus far, San Miguel has removed some 344,910 metric tons of silt and waste from the Pasig River since it started its cleanup activities last July 2021.

—Daxim L. Lucas INQ

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