The rise of mega-crony Enrique Razon Jr.

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Rodrigo Duterte favored oligarch Enrique Razon Jr.’s proposal to build a mega vaccine center on public land this May. The project will cover 10 of the 15-hectare property managed by the Pilipino Nayon Foundation (PNF) in Paranaque. The said property is one of the last “urban jungles” in Metro Manila and has grown trees and tall weeds.

Razon is rushing to build the project before the 20 million vaccine doses he ordered from Moderna arrive in June. He plans to gather 10,000 to 12,000 persons each day in this center on the false reasoning that this will accelerate herd immunity in Metro Manila.

Duterte and Razon are trying to ram the project despite widespread opposition. According to groups objecting to it, there is no need for a mega center that will only gather so many people in a place where they can infect each other since there are many other places and open spaces that can suffice. Health workers say it is also better to use the funds to repair and strengthen barangay health centers so that they can be used not just for vaccinations but for other medical services as well.

The mega vaccine center is only the latest of Duterte’s favors to Razon. Last April, Razon managed to wrestle control of Manila Water Company, one of the largest water companies in Metro Manila owned by the Zobel-Ayala family. This was after years of Duterte’s threats of taking over the company and forcing the Ayalas to renegotiate their agreement with the government. In the end, the Ayalas were forced to cede 51% control to Razon, even though he bought only 25% of its shares.

In 2019, Razon grabbed monopoly control of supplying electricity to the Panay island from the Panay Electric Co. (PECO) after Congress refused to renew the latter’s franchise. Instead, it awarded another franchise to Razon’s company, More Power, and gave him the authority to seize PECO’s properties in a space of two months.

Before this, Du­ter­te successively awar­ded Razon’s companies with the Wawa Dam Project in Rizal and the Chico Hydropower Project in Tabuk, Kalinga. In both projects, Razon had Chinese partners, and is set to use Chinese loans, personnel and equipment.

Port monopoly

Razon is the second richest Filipino in Forbes Magazine’s list of global billionaires this year. Like the others, his wealth ballooned during the pandemic—from $3.4 billion in 2019 to his current value at $5.1 billion or an increase of 47%.

He controls the International Container Terminal Services Inc. (ICTSI) which operates the Manila South Harbor Port and has a monopoly of managing all containers which come in and out of the country. In 2017, ICTSI bought the local operations of Manila North Harbour Port from Petron Corporation. The ICTSI is the foremost company which manages other ports in the country.

In addition to the two major ports, the ICTSI operate ports in Laguna, Batangas, Zambales (Subic), Cavite, Misamis Oriental, Davao, Tagum and Gen. Santos City. Razon also has operations in not less than 23 ports in 18 countries.

Razon also has companies in construction and real estate (Prime Metroline Infrastructure Holdings Corp.), gambling (Bloomsberry Resorts Corp.), mining (Apex Mining), water (Prime Water Metroline Holdings Inc), energy (Prime Metro Power Holdings Corporation), electricity (More Electric and Power Corp.) and investments (CLSA Exchange Capital Inc.).

Getting rich by cronyism

Like many bourgeois-compradors, Razon’s wealth grew due to cronyism. ICTSI’s expansion was fastest under Gloria Arroyo’s regime due to his close ties to the past president’s husband Mike Arroyo.

Arroyo provided him with lucrative infrastructure contracts in and outside the country. Arroyo was also the first to award him with NPF’s reclaimed land where his Solaire Resort now stands. The government then guaranteed his business loans.

Under Arroyo, Razon was instrumental in China’s gaining control of the National Transmission Company’s State Grid Corp. It was also Razon who fronted for the dummy corporation which was to be China ZTE’s local partner in what is now known as the aborted NBN-ZTE agreement where Arroyo and her officials received millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks.

In exchange, Razon funded Arroyo and her allies’ candidacies. In the 2017 elections, he served as the treasurer of the Team Unity of Arroyo’s Lakas-Kampi Party. When the coalition disintegrated, he became instrumental in building the National Unity Party. It now has 45 members in Congress and is part of Duterte’s “supermajority.” In the coming 2022 elections, Razon is one of the potential campaign funders of presidential hopefuls.

The rise of mega-crony Enrique Razon Jr.