By CHARO LOGARTA
Some of the country’s prominent businessmen confirmed that several possible contenders for the 2010 presidential elections have sent feelers for support.
"Mayroon nang mga personal acquaintances na lumalapit," said Miguel Varela, Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) chairman. Varela, however, declined to identify who these were.
PCCI is the Philippines' largest business organization. Many of its members usually support candidates of their choice during campaign fundraisers.
"There are more communications now," says Ambassador Donald Dee, PCCI chairman emeritus, "They're more friendly now. They haven't actually asked for support but you can tell by their body language."
In a presentation by political analyst Antonio Gatmaitan during a joint membership meeting of PCCI and the Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines, 16 potential presidential aspirants were identified.
These are: Vice-President Noli de Castro, Senate President Manuel Villar, Senators Francis Pangilinan, Francis "Chiz" Escudero, Richard Gordon, Gregorio Honasan, Panfilo Lacson, Loren Legarda and Manuel "Mar" Roxas II, former president Joseph Estrada, Makati City Mayor Jejomar Binay, Quezon City Mayor Feliciano "Sonny" Belmonte, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority chairman Bayani Fernando and National Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr..
But Gatmaitan added that only about five of them would actually be major contenders, though he declined to identify these individuals.
Gatmaitan did say that 2010 elections would be a battle of resources, for airtime and exposure in cyberspace. The ballpark figure to run a presidential campaign would be about P2 billion, and there's no guarantee of victory at that, he said.
"If you want to run, now is the time to prepare," said Gatmaitan, "When are you going to do it, if it's already campaign season? Barack Obama needed 16 months to prepare."
Dee said however that while many businessmen would support candidates of their choice, it was likely that they would be more discerning in choosing candidates.
Samie Lim, PCCI president, for his part said that while the organization would remain apolitical, it was crucial that the country's future leaders continue to prioritize economic growth, especially as the global economy enters a phase of uncertainty.