El Nido Resorts win Sustainable Destination Award

El Nido Resorts is the winner of the Sustainable Hotel Award in the Sustainable Destination category at the recent 21st Annual Hotel Investment Conference Asia Pacific (HICAP) in Hong Kong.

The HICAP, attended by leading industry professionals, is Asia’s biggest and longest running hotel investment conference. The Sustainable Hotel Awards were launched in 2007 to recognize hotels in the Asia Pacific region demonstrating exemplary sustainable practices and to inspire industry wide commitment to sustainable development and operations.

We thank our guests, shareholders, and staff for all their support of our sustainability efforts.

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Joining the Advisory Board of Pictet Clean Energy Fund

I am pleased to be joining the Advisory Board of the Pictet Clean Energy Fund, one the world’s largest alternative energy funds, which invests worldwide in companies that will profit from the transition to clean energy.

The Pictet Clean Energy Fund is managed by Pictet Asset Management, the investment management arm of Pictet & Cie. Founded in Geneva in 1805, Pictet & Cie is today one of Switzerland’s largest private banks, with assets under management and custody totalling US$ 384 billion and employing more than 3000 people worldwide.

The Pictet Clean Energy Fund currently has US$650 million under management, making it one of the largest alternative energy funds. In 2009, the fund was awarded the ‘Best of the Best Performance Awards’ in the ‘Clean Resources’ category by Asia Asset Management. In 2008 and 2009, the fund also won the ‘Best Alternative Energy Fund’ category. This UK-based award recognizes funds that invest in new technologies which create solutions to the climate change issue.

Launched in May 2007, the Pictet Clean Energy Fund invests in companies that contribute to and profit from the world’s transition to less carbon-intensive energy. The fund has a concentrated portfolio of 60-80 stocks that operate in the fields of carbon-free energy resources and technology such as solar, wind and hydro, and in energy efficiency.

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Arroyo, Koizumi, Medvedev and Schroeder meet in St Petersburg

On a cold and rainy morning of June 4  in St. Petersburg, Russia, I attended a plenary session of the St Petersburg International Economic Forum as part of the Philippine delegation.  The plenary was opened by a rather long keynote speech by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, and was followed by a panel discussion moderated by CNBC Anchor Maria Bartiromo between Philippine President Gloria Arroyo, former Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, and Nobel prize economist Robert Mandell.

Mandell started the panel discussion by predicting that the US economy would finally ‘hit bottom” by the end of the 2nd quarter or sometime in the 3rd quarter of 2009. Koizumi was passionate in calling on the US and Russia to reduce their nuclear arsenal and divert defense spending instead towards economic stimulus spending. Due to Japan’s over-dependence on imported energy, he reiterated their investment on energy efficiency and fuel-efficient cars.  Schroeder offered that the business of sustainability will become an attractive industry in the future, with Germany becoming the wind power leader in Europe. President Arroyo highlighted the passage of the Biofuels Law and the Renewable Energy Act as key pillars of the Philippine drive towards energy independence.

At the risk of being biased, I personally thought President Arroyo performed quite well.   While she was narrating the fiscal reforms undertaken by her administration, three Russian businessmen seated in front of me applauded her in the middle of her intervention.  After the discussion, Robert Mandell congratulated President Arroyo.  Later than evening, we bumped into Maria Bartiromo who said she was impressed by President Arroyo.

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Marketing El Nido Resorts in Moscow

As a last minute addition to a Philippine business delegation to Moscow, I joined a lunch last June 3 at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Moscow for two dozen Russian travel operators.   We had a delightful buffet lunch of snow crab legs, salmon terrine, beef stroganoff, chicken adobo, and a buffet table of Filipino dessert prepared by Filipino chef Brian of Ritz Carlton.

Since I was so focused on an earlier MOU signing in Korea, I did not come prepared to meet Russian CEOs of travel companies in my capacity as co-chairman of El Nido Resorts.

But Joy Denoga, our head of marketing of El Nido Resorts, did an amazing overnight response by sending a Russian language flyer on El Nido. Our marketing agent in Moscow brought El Nido CDs, calendars, gift cards packages and leaflets, which were distributed to each of the Russian travel industry executives.

As it turned out, El Nido already has a following in Moscow. Tourism Secretary Ace Durano introduced me to the CEO of the largest tour operator in Russia, who was most keen to send Russian tourists to El Nido.  The CEO showed me their tour catalog, which featured El Nido Lagen and Miniloc.  There was a rather embarrassing moment when several of the travel executives wanted to sit beside me over lunch.

I met a husband and wife travel team, Alevtina Abenoja and her Filipino husband Rudy.  They had a memorable visit to El Nido with their one year old son.  They are a very passionate promoter of El Nido Resorts and gave me a download of positive feedback from their clients who specially treasured the natural beauty and friendly service of El Nido.

Overall, El Nido came out well and was the only destination with any hand-out.  Not a bad outcome for someone who joined the Russian trip at the last minute.

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ASEAN Summit with Korea – Green Economy Green Asia

I somehow got included in the Philippine delegation for the 20th year Commemorative Summit last June 2 between heads of state of the ten ASEAN countries and the Republic of Korea held on beautiful Jeju island.

The summit was chaired by Oxford-educated 44-year old Thai Prime Minister Abhisit in Thailand’s capacity as the current chair of ASEAN.   Korean President Lee Myung-bak proposed that one way for the region to get out of the current global financial crisis is to invest in sustainability, or as he puts it, to invest in “Green Economy, Green Asia”.  The Philippines highlighted its enactment of its Renewable Energy Act as the most comprehensive renewable legislation in ASEAN, and welcomed investments by Korean companies in this sector.  Cambodia and Laos encouraged Korean investment in their hydropower sector.  Brunei drew attention to regional cooperation in the Heart of Borneo and the Coral Triangle.  Indonesia called on collective ASEAN action on climate change, particularly to mitigate the adverse effect of sea level rise.  One suggestion from this summit was for a common approach by ASEAN countries on a post Kyoto Protocol climate change treaty in time for the Copenhagen UNFCCC summit in December 2009.

After the summit, I had a brief chat with Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, whom I escorted as his cabinet minister-in-attendance during his state visit to the Philippines in December 2004.  He had heard I had joined the private sector, and was curious if I had rejoined the Philippine government since I was attending this summit.   In my mind I was also curious myself how I got included in this meeting.  I explained I was helping attract renewable energy investments into the Philippines.

Go Green!

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Green Growth – a New Path for Korea

At the sidelines of the Commemorative Summit between ASEAN and the Republic of Korea last June 1st, I dropped by the exhibit of Korean companies in the sustainable field.  One Korean company was in methane-fueled power generation from 4 large landfills near Incheon airport.  Doosan Heavy Industries is developing its first prototype of a 3 MW offshore wind turbine.

I was particularly impressed on learning that Kia and Hyundai Motors are collaborating on designing a 100% hydrogen fuel cell powered vehicle.  It was an impressive showcase of Korean corporate efforts to position themselves in the green technology business.

In August 2008, the Korean government launched a series of bold green initiatives to help Korea leapfrog into a low carbon society.   It set a goal of increasing the share of renewable energy from 2.2% in 2006 to 11% by 2030.  A stimulus package of 50 trillion Korean won (US$ 38 billion) was allotted for 9 key green projects that will create 950,000 new green jobs over the next 4 years.   An interesting action step is the appointed of “chief green officers (CGOs)” in all public institutions to promote Green Growth in all public policies.

At the G8 Summit in 2008, President Lee Myung-bak declared that Korea will be “an early mover in addressing climate change”.   He consequently launched the “East Asia Climate Partnership” with a US$200 million development assistance initiative for developing countries in East Asia.

Go Green!

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MOU Signing at Presidential Palace in Korea

After weeks of intense preparation, I was a proud signatory to an MOU signing in a formal ceremony held at the Cheong Wa Dae, or the Presidential Blue House in Seoul last May 30 by Korea East West Power (EWP), which committed to invest $50 million into our Alternergy Philippine Holdings Corporation to develop wind power projects in the Philippines.

Given the rapid-fire pace of signing several MOUs between Korea and the Philippines, EWP President Lee Gil-Gu and I had earlier pre-signed the MOU to save time. Undersecretary Elmer Hernandez, Managing Head of the Board of Investments, and Kim Dong-Soo, Chairman of the Export Import Bank of Korea (KEXIM), both signed the MOU in the presence of Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Korean President Lee Myung-bak. BOI will provide investment promotion assistance to EWP and Alternergy, while KEXIM for its part agreed in principle to provide up to $150 million in project loans to finance wind power projects developed by EWP and Alternergy.

KEXIM’s $150 million green financing offer to EWP is in support of the Korean Government’s “Low Carbon Green Growth” Initiative which calls for more investment into developing new and renewable sources of energy.

The fact that a non-governmental MOU was signed in the Blue House was most unusual.  Per protocol, only government to government agreements are signed in the Presidential Blue House.  However, my friend, Korean Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan, a former Korean ambassador to the Philippines, was keen to showcase to both presidents a green investment by EWP and instructed that the signing be held at the Blue House. Even the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs was surprised by this exception, but since the Korean side had suggested it, the Philippine side gladly agreed.

Philippine Trade Secretary Peter Favila was most supportive of this MOU signing. He felt it was the most substantive agreement with specific investment commitments. At the start of the signing ceremony, Secretary Favila saw me standing discreetly behind the row of photographers.  He waved for me to come up front to stand alongside the other Philippine cabinet members.   What a wonderful gesture on his part.

Immediately after the MOU signing, we all proceeded to a state dinner of abalone, grilled mero-fish, braised beef short ribs and other Korean side dishes, with an orchestra playing Korean and Filipino folk music.

What a highlight during my birthday week!

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