Marcos technocrat, visionary businessman, maverick dealmaker: Harvard-trained Bobby Ongpin passes away, 86

Ultra bilyonaryo Roberto “Bobby” V. Ongpin died peacefully in his sleep last night, February 4, in the arms of the paradise island resort he built off the coast of Quezon province.

He was 86.

Ongpin’s remains will be brought from the members-only Balesin Island resort to Manila, according to his nephew, businessman and journalist Apa Ongpin.

He is survived by his wife, Italian-Chilean Monica Arellano Ongpin; his children Stephen, Anna, Michelle and Julian; and four grandchildren.

The Harvard-trained Ongpin, whose wealth peaked at $1.7 billion in 2020, was a graduate of the Ateneo de Manila University (cum laude) and Harvard University. Ongpin worked briefly in Procter & Gamble’s Manila office before joining Sycip Gorres & Velayo as one of its youngest and brightest stars from 1964 to 1979.

He served as the country’s youngest Trade and Industry minister at 42 years old under then President Ferdinand Marcos. Ongpin helped Marcos steer the Philippine economy during its darkest years from 1979 to 1986, including the establishment of a parallel foreign exchange market dubbed the “Binondo Central Bank” which stabilized the foreign exchange market.

Ongpin went into private business after the fall of the Marcos administration. Together with his fellow Binondo Central Banker, the late Benito Tan Guat, father of bilyonaryo Willy Ocier, Ongpin formed Belle Corp. which developed Tagaytay Highlands.

He later went on his own and formed Alphaland which built Balesin, the City Club in Makati, and the Mountain Lodges in Baguio. He was also the owner of Atok Big Wedge and founder of Philweb.

He was on the board of San Miguel Corp., Petron corp., Philex Mining, Philippine Airlines, South China Morning Post, AIA Capital, and Shangri-La Asia Hong Kong.

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