RVO: Placing his bet on Phl

03/09/2011 | By: Babe Romualdez, The Philippine Star

International deal maker Roberto “Bobby” Ongpin has been threatening to retire as far back as 10 years ago but because he’s been on a winning streak – he has decided to make another bet –this time on Philippine tourism. Bobby (or RVO as his employees call him) continues to be a sought-after figure whose keen business instincts have helped many of his partners turn huge profits from their investments. Although Bobby spends a lot of his time abroad mostly in Europe and Hong Kong, somehow his best deals always end up in the Philippines, bringing in huge investments that have generated jobs both directly and indirectly. Bobby was the visionary behind Tagaytay Highlands, turning it into an exclusive, high-end resort and country club before he was eased out by former Erap pal Willy Ocier.

The former Trade Minister, who recently turned 74 years old, believes the country has a lot of tourism potential especially with the development of high-end resorts that could compete with what the best of the world have to offer. His latest gamble: he is betting on Balesin, a 424-hectare island off the coast of Quezon province originally owned by the Tordesillas family whose late patriarch Ed Tordesillas was Ongpin’s deputy at the Ministry of Trade and Industry during the ’80s. The white sand property was acquired via Alphaland Corp., a company formed in partnership with the Ashmore Group whose focus is on real estate development and acquisition. The lush tropical island is half the size of Boracay but people privy to development plans say Balesin Island Club could soon become one of the most sought after exclusive resorts worldwide, with themed villages inspired by famous destinations like St. Tropez, Mykonos, Bali, Morocco and Phuket.

Ongpin’s group boasts that environmental sustainability will not be compromised with the installation of ecologically-sensitive alternatives for power generation and water desalination. Bobby’s right hand man and general factotum, Mario “Babes” Oreta, is the big man at the forefront, implementing Bobby’s vision to turn the island into the ultimate destination offering more privacy to guests who want to experience the utmost in relaxation and pampering. The resort will have a Zen-Spa Villa with specialty treatments, a yoga studio, library and other amenities for the health and relaxation needs of guests. Although Bobby owns Philweb (the country’s largest Internet gaming company), he is no gambler himself – and the only things he bets on are businesses which have always been successful and so far have no reported losses in any venture. People say RVO has always had a fantastic Midas touch, and they are keenly watching and wondering if, indeed, this self-made man still has it even in his senior years. His man Babes Oreta counters, “You can bet on it!”

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