MANILA

Bunye: Bayanihan: Investing in every Juan

Speaking Out

I WAS a young boy studying at the Itaas Elementary School in Muntinlupa when I first heard the concept of "bayanihan." My social studies teacher used the classic image of neighbors coming together to carry somebody's nipa hut to another patch of farmland to illustrate the idea.

The diversity and challenges of modern Filipino life mean that this image of "bayanihan" may not be as relevant as it once was. However, the bayanihan spirit is thankfully alive and well. It shows itself in many ways and in many forms, and it has been in full display throughout the Covid-19 pandemic -- which is perhaps the most trying period that our country has encountered in this century.

It is with much pleasure that I am able to share with you how, as an independent director of the Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI), I am able to witness the coming together of banks, private companies, the government, and the investing public to help lift up a key player in the Philippine aviation industry.

Cebu Pacific, the Philippines' largest airline in terms of passenger volume has found itself, along with other air carriers, with its back to the wall. Passenger refunds and flight cancellations, coupled with ongoing operational expenses to pay their people and maintain their fleet have resulted in cash flows being on a one-way, outward stream, with very little coming in for over a year.

Prior to the pandemic, this airline was a rare gem in the Philippine airline industry. Catering to "Every Juan," Cebu Pacific effectively democratized air travel and helped ordinary Filipinos achieve their travel goals, see the world, and seek their fortunes abroad. It had been highly profitable, posting P9.123 billion in net income back in 2019 - a 132.6 percent increase from its 2018 numbers.

As aviation continues to be battered by the pandemic, and many analysts believe it will take years before it can recover, we at BPI believe that this is an industry that must be present after the dust of this crisis has settled. We all have an interest in seeing it survive.

Every Juan needs to fly again one day. There are dreams to fulfill, families to reunite, and overseas careers that need to be rebuilt. Even now, our local airlines have been fulfilling the critical task of flying precious vaccine supplies to cities and provinces around the archipelago -- underscoring their importance in a country such as ours.

BPI, through collaborative strategic advisory services with the Philippines' largest airline, will help power the industry's wings as it prepares to once again take flight. And we are not alone.

JG Summit, the holding company that Cebu Pacific is a part of, is giving full shareholder support to the airline via issuance of P12.5 billion Convertible Preferred Shares, with BPI Capital acting as Sole Global Arranger, Bookrunner and Underwriter. JG Summit has committed to take up at the least its pro-rata share in the airline (P8.5b) while allowing the investing public and other institutional investors to root for the airline in the most meaningful way possible.

Furthermore, both foreign and local lenders of Cebu Pacific have offered the airline relief in some form or another, such as allowing the deferral of principal payments. In the domestic space, BPI Capital has led securing vital life lines from domestic banks.

Government banks and the private sector, through commercial lenders, are also joining hands in supporting a key player of the severely-impacted aviation industry via a P16-billion syndicated loan facility.

Every Juan can play a role in the recovery of not just Cebu Pacific, but also of other companies and industries that badly need our support. We can help change the course of history if we change the way we look at how and why we invest.

As important as our personal financial goals are, there are ways in which our investment can work for the greater good. It's not always about the blue chips and the sure bets. After all, some of the most valuable stocks and companies today also had rough starts and naysayers in previous decades.

Place a bet on the Philippines. Invest in our collective dream of better lives for Filipino families. Invest in building a better Philippines and realize returns that future generations can enjoy and build on.

The Philippines donated vaccines to China in 1939

I recently came across this captioned photograph circa 1939 (uploaded by UP Professor Gerald Lico) which showed that the Philippines, through the Philippine Red Cross, once donated vaccines to China. The unnamed vaccines were produced in the Serum and Vaccine Laboratory (SVL) in Alabang, which was then operated by University of the Philippines Institute of Hygiene.

The vaccines were turned over by Charles H. Forster, manager of the Philippine Red Cross, and Dr. Felixberto N. Fuentes, head of SVL, to Dr. C. Kuangson Young, Chinese Consul General.

Alabang Serum and Vaccine Laboratory had the capability of producing anti-smallpox, BCG, anti-diphtheria, and anti-rabies vaccines. In post-war years, SVL also started producing anti-venom vaccines, sourced from its nearby serpentarium, which housed deadly Philippine cobras. The former SVL site has been repurposed and now forms part of the present day Festival Mall in Filinvest Corporate City.

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