August 19, 2008

The richest man in Bicol

ELIZALDY CO is probably a name Metro Manilans are not familiar with. But out in Bicol, this is one 'taipanet' that has been making waves in the region's economy, and soon Luzon natives will also be able to benefit from his businesses.

I met Zaldy when I recently went to Legazpi, Albay to cover the inauguration of two new tourism properties – Hotel Venezia in Renaissance Gardens, Legazpi, and Discovery Bay Misibis in Cagraray Island. Both properties are to be managed by HSAI Raintree Inc. (which also oversees the Discovery Hotels and resorts), but unlike the other Discovery-branded establishments, the Bicol properties are owned by Zaldy.

(Zaldy Co, CEO of Sunwest Group of Companies, poses at the lanai of a model unit of Discovery Bay Misibis, a luxury resort in Albay scheduled to open in December.)

Only 38, this guy is so unassuming and humble I can't imagine him as one of the richest men, if not, the richest man in Bicol. He is into almost all businesses — construction, aviation, tourism, renewable energy, and soon, even mining. An ex-seminarian, Zaldy's businesses (under his Sunwest Group of Companies) are aimed at protecting the environment (yes, even the mining although he declined to reveal the details of this rather new venture), giving more jobs to people, and lifting economies.

His renewable energy projects, for example, are powering small islands like Catanduanes, and soon Antique and Iloilo. "It's a good feeling," Zaldy says of his hybrid power projects (geothermal, hydro, wind). "It's acceptable to the people, and good for the environment.... We are just stewards of this earth, e."

Read more about how this taipan-in-the-making is making a difference in Bicol and the Philippine countryside.

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