Richest Filipino is also biggest philanthropist


Mall magnate Henry Sy Sr.: Richest and as well biggest giver. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—Mall magnate Henry Sy Sr., the Philippines’ richest person with a net worth of some $13.2 billion, is also one of the country’s notable donors, according to Forbes Asia’s latest list of “Heroes of Philanthropy.”

The list is a rundown of 48 leaders in the Asia-Pacific region who share their material success with society.

On its seventh annual list, Forbes Asia handpicked four philanthropists from each of the 12 countries in the region for “boosting society in creative ways.”

Sy, 88, founding chairman of the SM group, is joined by perfume manufacturer Joel Cruz, tycoon John Gokongwei Jr. and renowned architect Felino “Jun” Palafox Jr. to represent the Philippines.

“The selections are subjective,” Forbes staff member John Koppisch wrote in introducing the 48 leaders in the prestigious business magazine’s June 10 issue.

People and causes

“We aim for a mix of people and causes…. And we pick only true philanthropists—people who are giving their own money, not their company’s (unless they own most of the company), because donating shareholder funds isn’t charity,” Koppisch said.

The list includes personalities from Australia, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand.

“The Philippines’ richest person continues to disburse chunks of his fortune,” Forbes Asia wrote. Sy was also on the magazine’s list in 2009.

Forbes Asia noted Sy’s $112-million donation to an unnamed foundation in December last year, as well as his $7-million contribution to De La Salle University (DLSU) last year, to help construct an eco-friendly building named after him.

Other Filipinos

Cruz, 48, founder and CEO of Central Affirmative Co. which manufactures Afficionado Germany, was cited for his efforts to help children and abandoned teenagers, as well as his company’s yearly charity events.

Gokongwei, 85, founder and chairman emeritus of JG Summit Holdings, was praised for contributing at least $6 million to DLSU’s College of Engineering over the past two years, beefing up the institution’s funds for scholarships, faculty development, facilities and research.

He also made it to the list in 2008.

Palafox, 63, founder and managing partner of Palafox Associates, was chosen for his firm’s contributions in designing low-income development programs, as well as his pro bono work for Church-related projects.

“All are leaving the region a powerful legacy–whether it’s museums, symphony orchestras, a global project to eradicate polio, rural kindergartens, free health clinics or help for war refugees,” Forbes Asia said of this year’s mix of philanthropists.

Other Filipino philanthropists who made it to the Forbes Asia list in recent years were Albert Lina, Regina Paz Lopez, Emilio Yap, Mercedes Zobel, Jose Concepcion, Jesus Tambunting, Lucio Tan, Stephen Zuellig, Alexandra Prieto-Romualdez, Ricky Reyes, Washington Sycip, George S.K. Ty, Jon Ramon Aboitiz, Manuel Pangilinan, Alfonso Yuchengco, Ramon del Rosario Jr., Oscar Lopez and Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala II.—Lawrence de Guzman, Inquirer Research

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  • kismaytami

    Giving millions of dollars to an already rich exclusive school does not sounds like donation, but more like investment. Philantropy my a%$!

    By establishing foundations, businesses can avoid paying high corporate taxes on their profits. Plus, they got ‘pogi points’.

  • ForeverLearning

    my opinion and based on observation as a marketing person, other
    wealthy families are way much better in PR for their charitable causes
    compared to the Sy family. I have just started working for SM this year
    and I saw and felt their sincerity and kind
    hearts – very simple and low-key despite all the good deeds they’ve
    done for our countrymen that remain untold. It was a pleasant and
    humbling discovery about a family that keeps on getting all the flak.

  • Alexis_Ferro

    malaki lang tingnan yang donation nya, pero sa totoo lang wala pang 1% ng net worth nya yun, at minsan lang naman silang magbigay ng ganyan, at kung mag dodonate ka di mo na dapat ipaalam.

    • Luthmar

      Ang importante, donations are tax deductible. Kung minsan mas malaki yung refund kaysa donations.

  • Josemakabayan


  • rickysgreyes

    Kudos to Henry Sy. Wish he could donate to other less wealthy schools than La Salle. I truly believe that education is one way out of poverty.

  • DonQuixoteDeRizal

    my take on this philanthropy bullshits is that when you are old, i mean very old but very rich, say 88 years old and worth 13B dollars and you feel that the end is near, the first thing in your mind is heaven and second is legacy.

    So you try to buy a stairway to heaven and put your name on a building.

    the real question is: where were they when they worth 1 billion pesos, heck when they worth 1 million pesos?

    But anyway, who says that life is fair?

    • Chris Lim

      they are busy making those millions grow into billions…. else they cannot donate billions in peso if they have only millions… don’t you agree?

      • DonQuixoteDeRizal

        Read the Bible’s new testament and you will find my answer there. It is crystal clear.

  • alex ca

    intsik dapat bumalik na yan sa China……

  • okabato

    Misplaced philanthropy. 280 million pesos can build 2,800 classrooms badly needed by our school chidren. Why donate to a rich private school when you can give back to the community from where your riches come from? Would it be nicer to see elementary schools named after you like SM San Antonio Elementary School or SM Batasan Elementary School?

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