Firm Profile > Martinez Vergara Gonzalez & Serrano > Manila, Philippines

Martinez Vergara Gonzalez & Serrano
33RD FLOOR, THE ORIENT SQUARE
F. ORTIGAS JR. ROAD, ORTIGAS CENTER
1600 PASIG CITY, METRO MANILA
Philippines

Banking and finance Tier 1

Martinez Vergara Gonzalez & Serrano's banking practice stands out for the breadth of its work which encompasses advice on financings and refinancings, regulatory advice, and transactions in the debt capital market. It is particularly active assisting with the financing of energy projects, as well as corporate financing, while on the consumer banking side the team has advised fintech companies involved in remittances. The practice is also the retained counsel to a number of local and foreign banks in the Philippines. Practice head Mark Vergara specialises in project finance, while co-head Rosalia S. Bartolome-Alejo has a broad practice and the experienced Elmer Serrano is known for his corporate financing work. Erika Paulino is another name to note.

Other key lawyers:

Testimonials

‘The team is not only professionally cordial and warm, but absolutely dedicated to a timely resolution of concerns to close the documentation, transactions or deal.’

Key clients

P.A. Alvarez Properties and Development Corporation

Asia United Bank

Union Bank of the Philippines

BDO Unibank, Inc.

Development Bank of the Philippines

Land Bank of the Philippines

Farallon Capital

Security Bank Corporation

KEB Hana Manila Branch

Shinhan Bank Manila Branch

Capital markets Tier 1

Martinez Vergara Gonzalez & Serrano is active in a range of capital market transactions, acting for some of the biggest banks in the Philippines as well as advising private companies. The team has recently advised on IPOs, despite the challenging conditions produced by the Covid-19 pandemic. Practice head Manuel Gonzalez is experienced in acting for issuers and underwriters in offerings; Mark Vergara and Elmer Serrano are also key contacts in the team. Senior associate Janice Co frequently handles due diligence for transactions, while Gwyneth Ong advises local and foreign clients on capital market transactions.

Practice head(s):

Testimonials

‘While the team is relatively young versus other law firms in the industry, the MVGS team’s work is comparable with the more established firms. In every deals that we have done with them, the team has displayed maturity and expertise. They are also very accommodating. I can call them up anytime to consult.’

‘MVGS team members are knowledgeable and accommodating. Provides good advices to clients. During negotiations, they can defend the position or preferences of the client and provide good workarounds if necessary.’

‘Very personalized service. All work is closely supervised by competent partners of the firm.’

‘The partner in charge of our relationship fiercely aligns with and protects our interest. There is a healthy sense of trust and respect that makes working with them second nature.’

Key clients

P.A. Alvarez Properties and Development Corporation

BDO Unibank, Inc.

MerryMart Consumer Corp.

Suncity Group Holdings Limited

Security Bank Corporation

KEB Hana Manila Branch

Shinhan Bank Manila Branch

LDA Capital Limited

LDA Capital LLC

Bank of Commerce

Immigration Tier 1

Martinez Vergara Gonzalez & Serrano's immigration practice advises clients, including international companies, on visa applications to bring foreign workers into the Philippines. The team also acts alongside the firm's corporate department to advise on the labour implications of transactions. The practice is led by Shirley Alinea and Phil Ivan A. Chan.

Key clients

Invicta Cyber Defence Corporation

Labour and employment Tier 1

Martinez Vergara Gonzalez & Serrano acts for employers and employees in labour matters, including advising on redundancies, drafting of contracts, and disputes. On the employee side, the team recently acted for the representative organisation of Filipino footballers in a dispute with regarding whether the players are employees or independent contractors. The team is led by Reynaldo T. Dizon, who has almost 25 years' experience in labour law.

Practice head(s):

Testimonials

‘The partners in the firm are extremely responsive, personable, and knowledgeable in their field. Along with expert advice, they offer a personal touch that I haven’t experienced working with other law firms.’

‘All the individuals working at MVGS that I have encountered have been professional and easy to work with.’

Key clients

Citigroup Business Processing Solutions, Pte., Ltd.

Ubiquity Global Services, Inc.

Teleperformance Global Services Philippines, Inc. (formerly Intelenet Global Philippines, Inc.)

ADP (Philippines) Inc.

Sixtrees Viz Comms Pte. Ltd

Visa Philippines Business Processing Center, Corp.

Fédération Internationale des Associations de Footballeurs Professionnels (FIFPro)

AO247 Fitness Management Consultancy, Inc.

Malayan Insurance Co., Inc.

Sungears Sales, Inc.

Projects and energy Tier 1

Projects is one of the key areas of practice for Martinez Vergara Gonzalez & Serrano; the team advises banks and developers on some of the region's largest infrastructure, energy and natural resources projects. Project finance is the primary focus, though the firm also assists with a variety of other issues, including bidding processes, joint ventures, drafting agreements and navigating regulatory requirements. Manuel Gonzalez leads the group and focuses on financing public-private partnership projects, having advised publicly-listed companies on winning bids for infrastructure projects. Mark Vergara, who leads the banking team, advises on project finance issues and has acted as counsel for lenders in infrastructure projects, most notably in the context of toll roads and expressways.

Practice head(s):

Key clients

Asia United Bank

Union Bank of the Philippines

BDO Unibank, Inc.

Development Bank of the Philippines

Land Bank of the Philippines

Citicore Renewable Energy Corporation

Security Bank Corporation

KEB Hana Manila Branch

Shinhan Bank Manila

Real estate and construction Tier 1

A go-to name in the real estate sector, Martinez Vergara Gonzalez & Serrano is particularly strong in the capital markets field, advising large property companies and developers on bond and note issuances. The group also assists with various issues related to property conveyancing, including property titling, easements, land use reclassifications and conversion,  and commercial leasing. Mark Vergara, who leads the banking and finance team, advises on project finance issues relating to the construction of toll roads. Erika Paulino has advised on the funding of projects to construct hotels and casinos, and is also instructed by major banks to handle real asset portfolio divestments.

Practice head(s):

Testimonials

The team simplifies difficult legal concepts and provides comprehensive solutions to problems. Guidance is key. They get the job done.

Atty. Rosalia Alejo is very focused and sincerely cares about finding out the best solutions for our concerns. Its more than a job for her and her team.

Opinions provided are very thorough in a very efficient turnaround time. Very responsive in urgent matters.

Rosalia B. Alejo: The way she provides opinion and contracts covers not only the legal aspect but also the commercial side.

 

Key clients

P.A. Alvarez Properties and Development Corporation

Property Company of Friends, Inc.

Crown Equities, Inc.

Corporate and M&A Tier 2

Operating a strong and varied corporate practice, Martinez Vergara Gonzalez & Serrano regularly advises foreign companies on their entry into the Philippine market, in addition to acquisitions involving both equity purchase and asset sale in various businesses. Team leader Elmer Serrano has a long history of advising major national and international banks on both corporate and finance matters. Most recently, the group has continued its longstanding relationship with BDO Unibank, Inc. by assisting with the bank's sale of a 40% equity interest in MMPC Auto Financial Services Corporation. Rosalia Bartolome-Alejo manages the business formation and foreign investment practice group and also specialises in corporate reorganisation, joint ventures and dissolution.

Practice head(s):

Testimonials

The M&A Team of Martinez Vergara Gonzalez & Serrano was instrumental in bringing to successful fruition the acquisition of the client’s company. They are up to date with relevant laws and regulations; they effectively assisted in negotiating the terms and conditions of the transaction at all stages — before, during and after; they are effective in communication, both oral and written; and have ensured that the client’s interests are well-protected.

Manuel Z Gonzalez Gwyneth S Ong Janice L Co: All three of them, working as a team, are dedicated to their client’s goals, work tirelessly to ensure that the client’s objectives are achieved, and they are dutiful and have a keen eye for detail in the documentation of the agreements that are reached between the seller and buyer sides.

The Team not only highlights legal points but also commercial concerns that may impact current and future transactions of the subject companies.

Atty Mia Ormita knows her craft, specifically on debt contracts reviews Atty Tephanie Gandia ensures that all documentations are done on a timely manner and are in order. Atty Elmer Serrano who heads the team ensures we are legally informed and advises us of the impact of each and every provision in the shareholders agreements.

 

Key clients

BDO Unibank, Inc.

Nexif Energy Philippines Holdings B.V.

Udenna Corporation

Chelsea Logistics and Infrastructure Holdings Corp.

Citibank N.A. – Philippine Branch

Dispute resolution Tier 2

The team at Martinez Vergara Gonzalez & Serrano is able to advise on a wide variety of major disputes, ranging from real estate and corporate matters to crime and sport-related issues. 'Exceptional' practice head Eduardo Martinez is a specialist in family and private client law, advising on  adoption, marriage annulment and other domestic relations cases, as well as probate of will and intestate proceedings. Martinez is also experienced in alternative dispute resolution and serves as an appeals court mediator. Reynaldo Dizon leads the employment group and handles arbitration disputes between employers and employees, often involving wrongful dismissal and monetary claims. Shirley Alinea is noted for corporate rehabilitation and liquidation.

Practice head(s):

Testimonials

This firm does not only limit itself to one or a few special practices, it is in almost all areas of practices (whether labour, tax or other government matters and all forms of disputes business wise or personal) without sacrificing quality or efficiency of its services because they have very good people in all levels of practices. This means you do not have to retain 2 or 3 other law offices which these days may be costly.

The most senior partner Dindo Martinez I rate as exceptional in terms of quality and efficiency of work, but more important is the personal closeness that he extends that makes me feel that I am in good hands. Whether he is in the country or abroad, he is always there to help with my legal challenges and unlike most lawyers, Dindo is never too busy although I know he has tons of work.

Key clients

BDO Unibank, Inc.

Cohaco Merchandising & Dev. Corporation

Lucerne

Sungears Sales, Inc.

Teleperformance Global Services Philippines, Inc.

CF Sharp Crew Management, Inc.

Crown Equities, Inc.

Malayan Insurance Co., Inc.

Pan-Malayan Group

Grepalife

Hans Brumann, Inc.

Sixtrees Viz Comms Pte. Ltd

Arendelle Cold Logistics, Inc.

Eisberg Cold Logistics, Inc.

Intellectual property Tier 2

Martinez Vergara Gonzalez & Serrano 'is up-to-date with IP laws not just in the Philippines but in various countries worldwide' and primarily focuses on trade marks, handling application and enforcement work for a number of notable companies, in addition to advising on the negotiation and review of assignment, licensing and franchising agreements between foreign multinationals and local, domestic companies. Advising on copyright matters is another area of expertise and the team assists publishing companies with drafting template agreements. Practice head Shirley Alinea is an accredited arbitrator in intellectual property matters, and has a broad contentious practice that includes various types of commercial litigation. At associate level, Kristine Bongcaron assists with the preparation of patent and trade mark applications.

Practice head(s):

Testimonials

The MVGS team is up to date with IP laws not just in the Philippines but in various countries worldwide, either directly or through its liaisons, associations and contacts. It provides IP series and advice not just relevant to the Philippines but throughout countries of interest to the client.

Manuel Gonzalez and Gwyneth S Ong provide up to date and relevant legal advise that are important to the client’s IP interests and decision-making, as well as in charting the course of the company’s business.

Key clients

Armscor Global Defense, Inc.

Flexi Finance Asia Inc.

Kriska Assenmacher/ Ingrid L. Calubaquib

Lapanday Properties

Maximillan Abesamis

Spoiled Mummy Corporation (Ph)

Tepoj Co. (PH)

Torre Lorenzo Development Corporation

Torre Lorenzo Holdings Corp.

Institute For Inner Studies Publishing Foundation, Inc.

ISOC Holdings, Inc.

AO247 Fitness Management Consultancy, Inc

Tax Tier 2

Led by Rosalia Bartolome-Alejo, Martinez Vergara Gonzalez & Serrano’s tax practice handles tax planning and disputes involving national and local authorities. The practice additionally acts cross-departmentally to handle the tax aspects of transactions. The team is also increasingly active in estate planning, and has expanded recently with the additions of associates Mary Elizabeth Belmonte and Harlem P. Ma-at.

Practice head(s):

Key clients

Torre Lorenzo Development Corporation

Three Point Star Holdings, Inc.

Antitrust and competition Tier 3

Martinez Vergara Gonzalez & Serrano advises groups of companies and banks on pre-notification consultations, compliance issues and requests for information by the PCC. The firm was also one of the first to be instructed to act in adjudication proceedings, and has previously been invited to participate in public consultations regarding the development of the legislative framework governing merger control procedures. Head of M&A Elmer Serrano regularly advises BDO Unibank, the largest bank in the country, on various competition matters.

Practice head(s):

Other key lawyers:

Key clients

Udenna Corporation

Chelsea Logistics and Infrastructure Holdings Corp

BDO Unibank, Inc.

BDO Leasing and Finance Inc.

The firm: With the combined experience of the firm’s partners, MVGS takes pride in having established itself as a leading law firm, providing excellent legal services in the areas of corporate and commercial, banking, securities, corporate finance, mergers & acquisitions, intellectual property, litigation and alternative dispute resolution, labour and employment and immigration.

Areas of practice
Banking and finance: a core practice area, the firm acts as retained counsel for many leading local and foreign banks and financial institutions in the country. Special interest areas in banking operations, particularly regulatory compliance, are the firm’s strong suit.

Corporate finance: the firm and its individual partners have participated in numerous loan syndications and project finance transactions across the spectrum of industries, acting for financial institutions, borrowers and project proponents.

Debt restructuring: the firm and its individual partners have participated in restructuring in varied industries, acting for financial institutions and borrowers. Debt restructuring projects include legal advisory on related debt relief strategies.

Capital markets (equity): its team of securities practitioners has handled a wide spectrum of securities-related issues, ranging from initial public offerings (IPOs), rights and follow on offers, top-up placements, tender offers, reverse takeovers of publicly listed firms and issuances of global depositary receipts, as well as private equity.

Capital markets (debt): the firm acts as counsel to international and local financial institutions, and issuers in connection with the issuance of notes, bonds and similar debt securities. It has also been involved in the private and public issuances of bonds and commercial papers, both long term and short term. The firm works closely with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the regulatory authority tasked with implementing the Securities Regulation Code (SRC), and the Philippine Stock Exchange, Inc (PSE), a private organisation afforded self-regulatory status.

The firm also assists clients in structuring, drafting and obtaining approval for equity based employee benefit plans, from employee stock options and stock appreciation rights, to stock purchase plans, restricted stock units and other capital accumulation programs.

Mergers and acquisitions (M&A): the firm’s partners have significant experience in the consolidation of the banking and financial sector, as well as acquisitions involving both equity purchase and asset sale. In its M&A deals, the firm is involved in all stages of the transaction, from initial structuring and due diligence review, documentation of the merger or acquisition and related agreements, securing the relevant regulatory approvals, to transition.

Litigation and alternative dispute resolution: the litigation and dispute resolution group handles the full range of dispute resolution and mediation, covering criminal, civil and administrative litigation and includes appellate practice and advocacy. The firm has a strong arbitration team, headed by a partner who is concurrently a trustee of the Philippine Dispute Resolution Center Inc.

Intellectual property (IP): the firm handles the IP requirements of its domestic and international clients, including registration of trademarks, copyrights and patents, legal advisory on contractual concerns and prosecution and defense of intellectual property infringement actions.

Labour and employment: the firm’s labour practice includes advisory services on various labour issues, authoring employment manuals and serving as counsel in negotiations for Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBAs). The firm also provides advice and assists in implementation of hiring programs, training, retrenchment, redundancy, closure of companies and employee movements. The firm also handles labour litigation, arbitration, conciliation and mediation.

Department Name Email Telephone
Corporate and commercial
Banking
Securities
Corporate finance
Mergers and acquisitions
Intellectual property
Litigation and alternative dispute resolution
Labour and employment
Immigration
Photo Name Position Profile
Ms Shirley Alinea  photo Ms Shirley Alinea Partner
Mr Enrico Errol Angeles  photo Mr Enrico Errol Angeles Senior Associate
Ms Rosalia Bartolome-Alejo photo Ms Rosalia Bartolome-Alejo Partner
Ms Mary Elizabeth Belmonte photo Ms Mary Elizabeth Belmonte Partner
Ms Kristine Bongcaron photo Ms Kristine Bongcaron Senior Associate
Mr Phil Ivan Chan photo Mr Phil Ivan Chan Partner
Ms Janice Co photo Ms Janice Co Senior Associate
Mr David Del Castillo  photo Mr David Del Castillo Senior Associate
Mr Reynaldo Dizon  photo Mr Reynaldo Dizon Partner
Ms Tephanie Gandia photo Ms Tephanie Gandia Senior Associate
Mr Manuel Gonzalez  photo Mr Manuel Gonzalez Senior Partner
Mr Eduardo Martinez  photo Mr Eduardo Martinez Senior Partner
Ms Gwyneth Ong photo Ms Gwyneth Ong Partner
Ms Erika Paulino  photo Ms Erika Paulino Partner
Mr Elmer Serrano  photo Mr Elmer Serrano Senior Partner
Mr Gino Paulo Uy  photo Mr Gino Paulo Uy Senior Associate
Mr Mark Vergara  photo Mr Mark Vergara Senior Partner

Elmer B. Serrano, Managing Partner/Senior Partner

Elmer B. Serrano, Managing Partner of Martinez Vergara Gonzalez and Serrano (MVGS), explains how MVGS is adapting to its clients’ changing needs brought about by globalisation and developments in technology.

What do you see as the main points that differentiate MVGS from your competitors?

With the unique background of the partners and our lawyers, MVGS shares the commercial perspective of its clients. We are able to appreciate the transactional goals and eventual business profile that our clients seek to achieve in all their dealings on which MVGS is consulted.

This commercial perceptiveness allows MVGS to tailor its solutions and to professionally empathize with the needs and goals of its clients, improving even the returns and benefits to our clients from their transactions. This partnership of effectivity between MVGS and its clients is reflected in the loyalty of clients to MVGS and the  constantly repeating business referrals over the years.

Which practices do you see growing in the next 12 months? What are the drivers behind that?

>While a number of emerging practice areas are gaining focus, some of the notable areas of growth in the near term are:

Banking and Securities, with the rising interest rates and the tightening economic condition, banks and issuers will explore alternative means of raising funds, including issuance of bonds, CDs, and quasi-capital.

In Project Development and Finance, with the Philippine government’s thrust towards rapid infrastructure development and the country’s clear requirement for such, clients will seek MVGS’ distinct advisory services and assistance in securing project development contracts and in acquiring the corresponding funding.

In M&A, I see that as the Philippine economy grows, many industries will continue to consolidate and new businesses will develop. Competition law is particularly interesting.  In the last 2 years, we see more complexities in M&A execution, and as deals become more intricate, anti-trust regulations will quickly evolve. Many industries are young and need to thrive. It is my view that there must be a healthy balance between regulation and business so that growth in not stunted, or that competition regulations are not indiscriminately applied.

There are, of course, other practice areas I see emerging or growing. Stricter adherence to corporate governance standards and protection of intellectual property rights  have become more relevant of late. Local clients are also warming up to local or international arbitration and to areas of alternative dispute resolution.

We have also observed that some local clients overlook the importance of their brands and other IP rights in the past. However, as they grow, and enter into more cross-border transactions, protecting their IP rights and putting value to their brands havebecome more significant.

Globalization also drives our local clients to adhere to stricter corporate governance best practices and to new regulatory requirements such as data privacy rules. The legal guidance of MVGS is being tapped in all of these areas.

What’s the main change you’ve made in the firm that will benefit clients?

MVGS is a young firm, and we continue to improve our services to meet our clients’ expectations.

We have begun to restructure our organizational set-up mainly geared to enhance institutional training of our lawyers and become more responsive to their professional requirements so they can be more effective in the delivery of legal services to our clients.

Over the years, we have improved our IT system and security protocols and we have instituted more efficient use of our resources.

We have also  invested in technology that makes available to us data on the work and time use of our lawyers.  This will allow us to allocate our resources, manage our lawyers’ time and to focus our attention on the more pressing requirements of our clients. As some clients say, “I want my handling lawyer to drop everything.”  You can’t do that unless you can quickly re-allocate resources to suit the immediate needs of clients and projects.

Is technology changing the way you interact with your clients, and the services you can provide them?

Yes. as technology improves, MVGS has become more efficient.

In the Philippines,  given the problem of traffic congestion and lack of efficient public transportation, improved technology minimizes undue waste of time and resources.

In terms of client communication, email is becoming a secondary means of communication, as mobile phone apps like Viber, WhatsApp and Messenger are preferred more and more by our clients due to the immediacy and real-time communication.  Transactions are now even more borderless.

Research has likewise become more efficient and verifiable information is readily available.

Leapfrogs in technology has made practice more interesting and challenging because of the legal issues that comes with the territory.  Practice has also expanded at an equivalent pace and we have to keep up.

Can you give us a practical example of how you have helped a client to add value to their business?

In a recent acquisition, we pointed out to the client how the group structure of the acquired company and its subsidiaries foster duplication.  We worked with them to merge companies and streamline their overall organization and creating even more efficiencies.  They have managed to substantially reduce cost and improve their bottomline.  They have since  involved us more in their organizational and business direction and policies.

In one litigation, instead of protracted proceedings, we advised the client to adopt a remedy and that client was able to collect almost Php2.0 Billion now rather than later, reduce its expenses and minimize the loss of opportunity.  Client was able to deploy those funds immediately and earn money from it now rather than wait what reasonably could be expected to have been a minimum of 5 years.

One of our strengths is that we are not just “lawyers” but are our clients’ partners in their businesses.

Are clients looking for stability and strategic direction from their law firms – where do you see the firm in three years’ time?

Yes, more and more, our clients require organizational responsiveness and dependability from us.  In fact, certain clients have established minimum standards for engaging lawyers.  Clients require a level of predictability from their service providers, including lawyers, in order to project future business and assess potential transactions.  Clients therefore require a higher standard of professionalism and we, at MVGS, continue to plan strategically so that our size, skills and processes will match the developing requirements of our clients. In fact, clients actually expect counselling beyond normal lawyering standards.   We welcome this challenge as we believe in growing with our clients.

In three years, I see MVGS, bigger, with better foundations and more specialized skills.  Our lawyers are maturing with us and as laws multiply and become more complicated, I see our lawyers more responsive.  We are learning and acquiring the skills for the future legal environment and the issues we, as lawyers, will face.  I see MVGS developing even more specialized departments and our lawyers focusing more on particular practices.  I see our client base even more diversifying and growing. I envision the trust of our clients deepening.  I see MVGS and its lawyers becoming even more conscientious of our obligations to our clients and wanting to constantly improve and become the law firm of choice – ALWAYS at the top of our clients’ mind.