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Forbes names Villar among top philanthropists in Asia-Pacific

Tycoon Manuel B. Villar has been included in Forbes  Asia’s Heroes of Philanthropy, which is “a list of 15 altruists committed to issues facing the Asia-Pacific region.”

For its 14th annual philanthropy roundup, Forbes Asia said it sifted through dozens of candidates to compile the list. This year’s list, which isn’t ranked, encompasses entrepreneurs committed to causes in the Asia-Pacific region.

Manuel B. Villar

“Our goal is to capture individual philanthropists who are donating from their personal fortunes. Thus the list doesn’t include donations made by companies of Asia’s richest tycoons (unless the giving was made through a privately held company in which they are the majority owners),” Forbes Asia explained.

It added that, “As in previous years, we don’t include fundraisers or heads of nonprofits, though they play a critical role. Forbes Asia narrows in on the names with the financial capital to put their stamp on issues of importance.”

Villar, Founder and Chairman of one of the country’s largest developers Vista Land & Lifescapes, gifted more than 2 hectares of land to Manila’s Saint Jude Catholic School last year and finalized the donation of 5 hectares to the University of the Philippines, Villar’s alma mater, for an innovation campus.

The two parcels have a combined value of P8 billion (US$165 million). He also contributed to new facilities at four Philippine schools.

Villar, who grew up poor, credits education for shaping his character. “Education can uplift our people from poverty. It can provide dignity and jobs,” he said.

Smaller donations have gone to churches, poverty alleviation and the fight against Covid-19, which included protective equipment and converting buildings into quarantine facilities.

Some of the biggest donors in this year’s list were tied to the Covid-19 pandemic. Several were prompted to build hospitals, provide protective equipment or fund medical research. 

Hong Kong’s Li Ka-shing channeled HK$250 million (US$32 million) into various forms of aid through his foundation, including HK$100 million to communities in Wuhan—the epicenter of the outbreak in China.

Fast Retailing chief Tadashi Yanai gave ¥11.2 billion (US$105 million) to two universities in Japan, most of which will be used to facilitate research on diseases and to develop a vaccine for the coronavirus. 

But pandemic relief wasn’t the only focus this year. Other honorees dedicated themselves to causes such as the arts and education.

Vietnam’s richest man, Pham Nhat Vuong, donated $77 million alongside his charity to fund Covid-19 relief, as well as educational scholarships and healthcare programs around his country.

Others in the list are: Pramod Bhasin of India, brothers Robert and Philip Ng or Singapore, husband and wide John and Pauline Gandel of Australia, Li Shufu of China, Huh Dong-Soo of South Korea, Eleanor Kwok Lai Kwai Chun of Hong Kong, Simon Lin of Taiwan, Lee Su-Young of South Korea, Li Xiting of China, Rakesh JhunJhunwala of India, and Yusaku Maezawa of Japan.

Source: Manila Bulletin (

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