Of the 92M Filipinos today, eleven are among the billionaires of the world. That’s a staggering proportion of 0.00001% of the country’s population. The top three are all Chinese: Henry Sy ($7.2B) of SM malls fame, Lucio Tan ($2.8B) of Eton City realty group and PAL, and John Gokongwei ($2.4B) of Robinson’s chain of department stores.
The SM Malls of Sy, of course, are visited by the common people even if they can’t afford to buy anything in there. SM malls are worth visiting, especially during the hot days of Summer. Robinson’s Malls offer similar services. In the case of Tan’s Eton City along SLEX, one observes a difference. The Lake City within Eton City, within Sta. Rosa City is a case in point. Earlier on, when the price was still introductory, I inquired, out of curiosity, from Eton City’s display centers in one of the gasoline stations on SLEX. I was informed that the smallest lot in Lake City was 600 sqm, and the cost of that lot was, by my calculation (I had a calculator with me then), a staggering P12M.
Had I bought such piece of land (that’s an expression of an impossible wish), I would have had to build my house on it within one year (policy of the Land Development Company, I was informed) or I would have forfeited the land rights. Now, that made a difference. One doesn’t build hurriedly a house worth P25,000 on a lot worth P12M if one doesn’t want to be labeled “informal settler.” More likely, a house on that kind of land right in the middle of a man-made lake along the most expensive expressway south of Manila would likely cost P50M or more. If you own that house on that piece of dirt (read: land, well, actually, an island), you have to have a motor display center to park your convoy of Lamborghinis and Porches, and a “ship yard” where your fleet of leisure boats and probably amphibious cars would also be parked.
This, of course, is beyond my appreciation. Hence, I’m not going to spend my millions there. Oh, the millions will come from my lotto winnings. I’m planning on buying a lotto ticket tomorrow, or day after tomorrow, or sometime later.
As rich individuals, Sy, Tan, and Gokongwei (Sitago – sounds like breakfast as in sinigang na tapa sa goto), could have, among the three of them, brought agricultural production to new heights and made the Philippines self sufficient in food and still became filthy rich at the same time, but they chose malls and high-end residential enclaves because they were able to rake in billions over a relatively short period of time and with the least amount of risk.
To make even prime agricultural lands produce enough rice for the millions of Filipinos is increasingly becoming difficult, it has been observed. It obviously is quicker to make billions from converting prime agricultural lands in the lowlands to urban communities with concrete lining the sky line. In the process, of course, we sacrificed food production for high-end urbanized communities. Then we resorted to rice importation as we no longer produce the rice we need. Having established the rice importation industry, we institutionalized corruption at the highest levels of government as well as the private sector.
Could this phenomenon have actually contributed greatly to the increase in poverty and hunger in the country? I don’t know. Just asking.
To be fair, I’m not saying that our situation now, hopeless as it seems, is the fault of the Big 3 (Sitago). I’m just baffled by the mere fact that it is possible to amass such unfathomable wealth in a poverty-stricken country like the Philippines.