MANILA — The suspense is over.

A 60-year-old balikbayan from New York City showed up on Thursday at the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) in Pasay City and claimed the P741,176,323.20 (or about U.S.$17 million) jackpot of the 6/55 Grand Lotto on-line lottery draw on Nov 29, ending wild speculations on who the lone winner was.

Jose Ferdinand Rojas II, PCSO general manager, told the Philippine Star that the winner was with his family and was shopping at the Royal Duty Free at the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) in Olongapo City when he decided to buy five lotto tickets using the lucky pick system, wherein the computer picks the number combination for the bettor.

The lotto outlet owned by Necitas Garcia that is located inside the Royal Duty Free at the SBMA sold the ticket with the winning number combination 11-16-42-47-31-37.

“He has been a lotto fan in the U.S.,” he said.

Rojas said the winner, who is married and a devout Catholic, plans to donate a portion of his winnings to charity and his relatives in the Philippines, and put the rest of the jackpot in the bank.

The lucky winner of the biggest lotto jackpot since the PCSO launched the on-line lottery in 1995 said he would return to the U.S. and retire there.

He will return to the Philippines after one year and retire here and live on the interest of his huge bank account.

Several men carrying handheld radios escorted the winner to the PCSO.

As a policy the identies of lotto winners are kept secret for security reasons.

The Star spotted Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Jessie Robredo near the room where the winner was waiting for his check.

A PCSO official said that the presence of Robredo was just a coincidence.

The winner and his escorts, for security and confidentiality purposes, had told PSCO security guards that they wanted to visit PCSO chair Margie Juico or the general manager.

The visitors were told to get security passes but when they reached the chairman’s office, the winner revealed that he would claim the jackpot.

“It took only an hour and the winner got the jackpot prize intact,” Rojas said

The lotto jackpot was finally released after a nationwide frenzy over the Grand Lotto jackpot.

Juico said the lotto jackpot generated total sales of P4.1 billion in 86 draws.

She said 30 percent of lotto sales are used for medical and health services of indigent patients nationwide, including hospitalization assistance, medical/dental missions and ambulance donations, among other charity concerns.