On January 6 in the year 1937, one of the most controversial businessmen in the Philippines was born in Manila. His name is Roberto ‘Bobby’ Velayo Ongpin, the founder of online gambling company Philweb and property concern Alpha Land. He was a former Minister of Industry during the regime of former strongman Ferdinand Marcos. His younger brother, Jaime Ongpin was appointed finance minister in 1986 by the late president Corazon Aquino.
With a net worth of $1.8 billion according to forbes.com as of May 19, 2020, Roberto Ongpin is the 9th richest Filipino and the #1267 richest in the world.
Bobby Ongpin was the second of seven children of the Luis Roa Ongpin and Lourdes Morales Velayo who are scions of influential clans in the Philippines. He is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), earning a degree in accounting from the elite Ateneo de Manila University and his MBA from Harvard University. After a brief stint with Procter and Gamble Philippines, he joined SGV, one of the largest accounting and management firms in Asia which was co-founded by his maternal uncle, Alfredo Velayo. He rose to become a managing partner before he was recruited by then President Marcos to join the cabinet in 1979. He remained in the cabinet until Marcos’ overthrow in 1986.
After he left government service, Bobby re-entered the private sector. Initially, he organized the property development firm Belle Corporation to build a high end resort in a small city in the outskirts of Metro Manila. Later, he acquired control of Atok Big Wedge, a small listed mining company and transformed it into an investment holding firm. He also purchased a dormant public company, renamed it as Philweb and turned it into an online gaming company. Since then, he has been invited to become director in many companies in the Philippines and in Hong Kong.
In 2009, Bobby Ongpin set up Alpha Land Corporation as his vehicle for his real estate investments. Two of its best known projects are a high-end residential and commercial tower in the heart of the financial district of Makati and the Balesin Island resort which is now frequented by the rich and the famous.
Roberto Ongpin has four children, two of them with his wife Monica, a Chilean national. In 2016, he was denounced by the newly elected president Rodrigo Roa Duterte as an unwanted oligarch, prompting him to sell Philweb to a businessman closed to the family of the Marcoses. During the presidency of Benigno Aquino III, he was investigated for alleged illegal transaction involving the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP), a state-owned bank.
See also: Top 15 Richest Filipinos in 2020