In the aftermath of the assassination of the late Benigno Aquino Jr. in 1983, there was a massive outflow of foreign exchange from the country with foreign investors and even domestic investors taking their investments out of the country to such an extent that the Central Bank of the Philippines was virtually emptied of dollars.
Then President Ferdinand E. Marcos Sr. did not know what to do. If nothing was done to stop the outflow of foreign exchange, the economy would collapse, Santa Banana!
As a journalist at that time, I covered Malacanang as part of my beat, and also the Ministry of Trade and Industry under Roberto V. Ongpin, as minister.
I was pretty close to “Bobby” Ongpin since he was once my student when I was teaching at the old Ateneo. Minister Ongpin revealed to me a plan to save the economy.
With the authority of then President Marcos Sr., Ongpin gathered nine of the well-known foreign exchange dealers in Binondo, and threatened them that he would send them to the stockade if they did not comply with his plan.
The country then was still under Martial Law.
The Binondo foreign exchange dealers had no choice but to comply with the order of Ongpin to open themselves to the public to furnish the foreign exchange needed by the government and the public.
This gave birth to what was then called the “Binondo Central Bank.”
The rate of exchange was dictated on a daily basis by Ongpin, and that saved the economy from collapse.
Ongpin’s plan was such a tremendous success that after Martial Law, when Ongpin was then abroad as an international businessman, the World Bank even asked his help to save the economy of Egypt which at that time had the same problem as the Philippines.
This event during Martial Law was not well-known to the public, and neither did Ongpin want an accolade. He just accepted it as part of his job as minister of Trade and Industry.
I was just thinking that now that Marcos Jr. is President, I believe that Ongpin should be recognized for his contribution to the country.
Ongpin has since become the foremost builder of prime high-end projects, with his signature project — the Balesin Island Club, now a multi-billion dollar project.
Balesin is a 500-hectare Pacific island paradise with its 7.3-km white sand beaches, 7 themed villages, 25 restaurants, 386 villas, and unmatched amenities.
It is the premier members-only getaway for the rich, famous and elite, all under the umbrella of Alphaland of which RVO is the chairman and Chief Executive Officer.
Debt-free RVO’s Alphaland Corp/ is expanding into a nearby 732-hectare Balesin International Gateway resort complex with fresh water. a 2.5-km runway for big jets, five-star hotels, an 19-hole golf course and 834 luxury beach and golf course homes.
The idea: Attract the world’s high networth individuals to enjoy the most unique beach resort and nature enclave, as members and guests.
Ongpin has gone international, having expensive spots over CNN to attract high-end individuals, particularly from Japan, China, Australia and Europe.
Give it to RVO, he simply cannot stop thinking how to make billions of money. And I must say, I am proud of him having at one time been my student.
RVO, the businessman, is known today as the visionary of high-end property projects, notably with his signature development Balesin Island Club for members only, and others like the Alphaland Mountain Lodges, which I call “The Forbes Park of Baguio,” Makati Place which has been commended as the best residence hotel, the City Club at Alphaland, a premiere sports and leisure club and the Aegle Wellness Center with its spa.
I am not exaggerating, but RVO will be remembered in history for the Binondo Central Bank that saved the Philippine economy from collapse.
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The now generation may not know that Ferdinand E. Marcos Sr., a President and a law-giver, was a visionary par-excellence and his presidential decrees, letters of instruction, letters of implementation, General Orders, Executive Orders, Administrative Orders and his Memo Circulars had been used by administrations after him, and are still being used today—most of them anyway.
As written by former Justice Manuel “Lolong” M. Lazaro, “Good deeds, especially those beneficial to the nation and the people, cannot be effaced or expunged.
“Good survives and triumphs in the end. Marcos Sr.’s place in history is secure. The Marcos laws abound and surround us. They are embedded in our legal system and they continue to govern and guide the nation.”
This is a quote from the foreword written by Lazaro from the book by Cecilio T. Arillo titled “The Marcos Legacy.”
“No President has ever codified laws on the same subject as Marcos did that are still effective and are being enforced. Worth mentioning are 15 codified laws he issued that are still enforced: the Local Tax Code (PD 231); Labor Code of the Philippines (PD 442);
“Real Property Tax Code (PD 464); Child and Youth Welfare Code (PD 603); Insurance Code (PD 612); Revised Forestry Code (PD 705); Code of Sanitation (PD 856); Coconut Industry Code (PD 961); Water Code ( PD 1067);
“Code of Muslim Personal Laws of the Philippines (PD 1083); National Building Code (PD 1096); Philippines Environment Code (PD 1152); Fire Code (PD 1185); Government Auditing Code (PD 1445);
“Tariff and Customs Code (PD) 1464); and Code of Agrarian reform (PD 444).
“He also crafted and issued signal laws that have been hailed and lauded by all succeeding administrations;
“(a) the Judiciary Development Fund, the oasis of the financial benefits of the members of the judiciary;
“(b) the Philippine Amusement Gaming Corporation, the alternative signal source of revenues to fund miscellaneous activities of the government;
“(c)the Export Processing Authority to attract foreign investments;
“(d)the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board;
“(e) the Philippine Coconut Authority to develop and enhance coconut production and export;
“(f) the Philippine Tourism Authority as one of the engines to source revenues;
“(g) laws on socialized housing through a series of legal issuances from the funding, the lending, the mortgaging and to the collection of the loans;
“(h) All the specialty hospitals, Philippine Heart Center, Lung Center, Kidney Center, Philippine Children’s Center, among others, perpetuated his great concern and response to public health;
“(i) establishment of the biggest oil company now known as Petron, sensing and fearing that the foreign oil companies could strangle the country of its oil supply requirements and manipulate oil prices;
“(j) Philippines was one of the first in South-East Asia to establish a nuclear power plant, unfortunately its completion was sabotaged by the opposition on the baseless fear it was located within the perimeter of Mt. Pinatubo that violently erupted but did not damage the nuclear project;
“(k) Philippines is one of the few countries in the world to build geothermal power plants as alternative source of energy;
“(l) initiated oil exploration and drilling of Malampaya oil;
“(m) President Marcos is the only President who recognized and acknowledged by laws the importance of arts and culture in the life of the nation;
“(n) the construction of the fabulous Cultural Center of the Philippines and the humongous Philippine International Convention Center remained the venues for the promotion of arts and culture and the holding of international conventions and conferences.
“These are a few of the significant issuances and undertakings of President Marcos.
“Some sinister or vindictive minds wish to expunge them but they simply cannot.
“Marcos’s legal issuances and accomplishments are part and parcel of our legal system. They continue to touch lives, properties and public functionaries.”
Marcos Sr. is remembered for a lot of things, especially the Martial Law atrocities, alleged violation of human rights and the alleged ill-gotten wealth.
But, to be fair, he crafted signal laws that still form part of our legal system.