Filipino Billionaires

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March 2002. Fellow countrymen, be proud.  While most of us may be poor, with total net worth of a little more than what we wear right now, there are reasons to be proud of.  Even though many of us are not privileged enough to own a house, a lot or a car, there is something in Filipinos that we can brag about.  Well, we may not be a part of it but other Filipinos, and only a few of them, just give our nation an image of prosperity.

The country's gross domestic product (GDP) per capita income may be less than US$1,000, but four of over 80 million Filipinos are getting a larger share of the pie. In fact, they are included in Forbes Magazines' latest list of 497 world billionaires (in US dollars).  Bravo!

Ironically, Finland and Austria where per capita income is more than US$24,000 has no representative in the billionaires' circle.

Filipinos in the billionaires' list are Lucio Tan, with a net worth of US$1.7 billion; Henry Sy, US$1.5 billion; George Ty, US$1.1 billion; and Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala and family, US$1 billion. Their combined wealth amount to about US$5.3 billion or almost 7 percent of the country's GDP of US$75.2 billion last year.

The first three billionaires were immigrants from China while Ayala is a scion of an aristocrat Spanish clan.

Tan, 67, owns Asia Brewery, Fortune Tobacco, Philippine Airlines and Philippine National Bank while the 77-year-old Sy manages the SM shopping malls. Ty, 69, runs Metro Bank, the country's largest commercial bank while Ayala, 42, heads Ayala Corp., the largest conglomerate in the Philippines.

Other Filipinos who figured in previous billionaires' lists are John Gokongwei, a property and retail tycoon; Manuel Villar, a senator who controls the country's largest housing developer company; Danding Cojuangco, chairman of San Miguel Corp.; the Lopez clan of Meralco and ABS-CBN; and Tan Yu, a property mogul.

Who can accuse the Philippines as a country of poor people.  I may be poor, but at least four Filipinos are not.  And I am proud of this fact.  Are you?

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