Press Release
March 8, 2023

Senate honors RVO

The Senate on Wednesday, March 8, 2023, adopted a resolution expressing its profound sympathy and sincere condolences on the death of former Minister of Trade and Industry and business tycoon Roberto V. Ongpin.

Ongpin died in his sleep on Balesin Island, Polillo, Quezon, on February 4, 2023, at the age of 86.

Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva sponsored Senate Resolution No. (SRN) 468, authored by Sen. Imee Marcos, taking into consideration proposed SRN 523, authored by Senate President Juan Miguel "Migz" Zubiri, Villanueva, Pia Cayetano and Francis "Chiz" Escudero.

The resolutions were later unanimously adopted as SRN 51, with all senators made as co-authors.

Ongpin, or RVO as he was fondly called, was the country's youngest minister of Trade and Industry, assuming the post at the age of 42 during the administration of former President Ferdinand Marcos Sr.

During his term, he made significant contributions to the country's development and defended the currency in the wake of the 1983 financial crisis by establishing the Binondo Central Bank, a parallel exchange rate system that allowed the government to narrow the rate gap between the dollar's official guiding rate and the black market rate by directly intervening in the black market currency prices.

After serving in government, Ongpin built business empires, orchestrated deals that brought the Shangri-La Group into the Philippines, and founded Tagaytay Highlands, PhilWeb, and Alphaland Corporation. He later built his crown jewel, the Alphaland Balesin Island Club off the coast of Quezon province. At the time of his passing, he was working on expanding the resort by building another resort on the Patnanungan Island nearby.

Ongpin graduated cum laude from the Ateneo de Manila University and earned his MBA from Harvard Business School. He became a certified public accountant in 1958, after which he briefly joined the Philippine Manufacturing Company, now Procter & Gamble Philippines. He eventually led SyCip Gorres Velayo & Company (SGV & Co.) to become Asia's largest accounting firm in the 1970s. SGV founder Washington Sycip called him "one of the most aggressive and effective managers" he has ever known.

Villanueva said Ongpin was also a philantropist. Since 1988, he has funded thousands of full scholarships at the Ateneo de Manila, in the name of his brother, Jaime, who passed away in 1987. In 1993, the Jaime V. Ongpin Scholarship Fund was formally established and had grown to fund 200 scholarships in seven Ateneo high schools nationwide.

"To date, the scholarship fund has helped 2,207 students graduate from high school, enabling them to go to college and have their dreams within their reach," Villanueva said in his sponsorship speech.

"With RVO's passing, we lost a great friend, a pillar of the business community and a great public servant, but his invaluable contributions to the development of our country and to the lives of thousands of scholars will never be forgotten," he added.

Marcos said: "Bobby Ongpin was just such an iconoclast upsetting, offending, angering many authorities but he also brought about change, great innovation and yes indeed he brought forth the truth in many, many cases."

She said her father and Ongpin "were great friends beyond work and beyond government."

"He (Ongpin) was his (Marcos Sr.) favorite, if only because they share interest in both women and as well upsetting the establishments in every possible way," Marcos said.

"Iconoclast at last to the end, controversial always offensive to many of the rich and powerful, history will be Bobby Ongpin's final judge!" she added.

Cayetano said Ongpin was her former boss, having worked with him as a lawyer in many of his projects.

"But it wasn't an easy job. 'RVO was a tough and demanding boss...I learned from him to keep on trying, to never leave any stone unturned, to keep on exploring how you can get the job done," Cayetano said.

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