Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company
by Al Labita
HE has long shunned politics.
But like a ghost, his name haunts the political landscape now abuzz with rumors in the run-up to the 2016 elections.
From obscurity, Manuel V. Pangilinan, aka MVP, suddenly shot to prominence, being bruited about as a potential “dark horse” in the next presidential race. What props up MVP’s stock is his technocratic skill that transformed the once struggling Hong Kong-based First Pacific Company Ltd. into one of Asia’s profitable corporate titans. He may not have any political affiliation, but he has the money. The self-made billionaire sportsman has made it to the elite list of US-based Forbes Magazine as one of the Philippines’ richest men, joining the ranks of taipans Henry Sy, Lucio Tan and the Ayalas. He was listed as the Philippines’ 50th wealthiest with an estimated net worth of P4.5 billion as of July 2013.
Undoubtedly, MVP boasts impeccable credentials. As the top honcho of First Pacific, he steered its phenomenal growth over the past decades. From selling Indonesian noodles, the company diversified into banking, finance and property, mainly in Hong Kong and Jakarta, the headquarters of parent Salim Group. In mid ‘90s, MVP saw an opportunity to return to his country where he learned the ropes of the trade, so to speak, as an investment banker.
At the time, the telecom industry was liberalized, enabling him and his group to launch a bid to take over the then financially ailing Philippines Long Distance Telephone (PLDT). With PLDT as flagship, there was no stopping him from venturing into other profit centers — ranging from power to mining, toll roads, media, water and related utilities – all under a listed holding firm, Metro Pacific Investments Corp. (MPIC) chaired by MVP.
Today, the Philippines accounts for 70 percent of First Pacific’s offshore forays, a sign of his abiding faith and confidence in his country’s business potentials.
The Miracle Man
MVP has earned the trust of the very rich, with track record in making sure stakeholders in companies he runs get back their money’s worth. That kind of character is what the Philippines needs now. One who takes care of the trust given him by stockholders. One who has not and will not betray his bosses, the investors.
Our publication, OpinYon, is of the thought that the Philippines if run like a corporation could get out from the economic hole it is drowning in and bring real prosperity to this country. And who could run giant companies and turn around losses better than the proven miracle man himself – MVP.
Given the chance to run the Philippines like those giant companies he has turned around to make profits, MVP could serve his “bosses”, the Filipinos, like he is serving those who trust him with their money.
Given a change of heart in the people towards trapos, MVP has better than fair chance of earning the trust of the people and win the election for President.
After Pres. Benigno S. Aquino has been stripped of his mask and now earning public ridicule, most Filipinos are asking: who should lead this country?
MVP has the campaign infrastructure to win in a political contest. He has good grip of respected media in, print and broadcast. His business interests are almost everywhere in communications and utilities. He has an army of loyal workers, satisfied in their pay like at PLDT, Meralco and other MVP firms which are among blue chips traded on the Philippine bourse and are the usual top picks by both foreign and local investors.
Credit also goes to MVP for laying the foundation – in terms of infrastructure –of what is now known as “Global City,” a former Army Camp, in Taguig City after winning its public bidding. Amid public outrage over the “pork barrel” scandal, the tycoon appears to be a logical choice as an alternative to dyed-in-the-wool trapos in a rapidly shifting political milieu.
Should he throw his hat in the political arena, it’s likely the media outfits – TV 5, Daily Inquirer, Philippine Star and the Business World – under his corporate umbrella would come in handy in a political campaign.
But in his media comments, MVP has thumbed down any ambition to seek a public office.
‘There is no political blood that runs through my veins. I believe I can serve our people better some other way.”
He reacted to rumors that, on the prodding of friends and business associates, he would seek an elective position in the 2016 elections. Pundits believe he would make a great president, given his “technocratic skills.” At a recent forum on the 2016 presidential elections, organized by the Center for Philippine Futuristics Studies and Management Inc., political analyst Antonio Gatmaitan said Pangilinan “could bring his technocratic skills to address the complicated economic issues that will confront the nation and help address a few selective social issues.”
Gatmaitan knows whereof he speaks as he is the executive director of the Political Economic Applied Research Foundation. In case Pangilinan decides to run for the country’s top post in May 2016, Gatmaitan said: “Imagine the excitement it can create.” Ramon Casiple, the executive director of the Institute for Political and Electoral Reforms, said it is clear that Pangilinan has a political agenda in buying stakes in a diversified mix of financially distressed companies and turning them around as money spinners. He also believes Pangilinan would be the dark horse candidate in the 2016 presidential elections. “I agree there is a dark horse. And that’s MVP,” Casiple said.
Apolitical he may be, MVP’s thoughts – often expressed in media interviews – betray what could be his hidden political agenda. In not a few instances that he articulated his own vision for the country favoring investments in such critical businesses as tourism, mining, utilities and information and communications technology.
To him, investments in infrastructure such as power plants, toll roads, seaports and airports are vital to lower the cost of domestic production – ideas that would serve as dividends or profit-sharing with Filipinos should the government turn corporate-oriented and business-like under the banner of what would become the Philippines, Inc and with him as a prospective CEO.
Pangilinan believed that the country’s leaders should be more involved in coming up with long-term solutions and move beyond short-term crisis management if they aspire for the country to grow and move forward.
On election, his view is that it should provide a rare opportunity to define the country’s long-term economic and social priorities, and form a broad consensus around them.
He noted that the private sector should take the lead in mobilizing and directing infrastructure spending, adding the government’s assistance is needed as well.
“The private sector cannot operate on its own. It must seek government help and assistance. In infrastructure, public-private-sector partnership will be critical—the private sector being the moving force and the government providing the relevant incentives, support and enabling regulatory framework.” In more ways than one, MVP is also a philanthropist through his Kapatid Foundation.
In Bacolod city, the City Council approved a resolution declaring MVP an adopted son, noting that his life’s success story is an inspiration that is worth emulating by all Filipinos.
During his years in Hong Kong, he founded and chaired the Bayanihan Center that provided cultural and vocational activities for Filipino domestic workers there. In December 2012, he mobilized his telecommunication companies in a national telethon that raised millions of pesos to aid the victims of typhoon Pablo.
“This simple and hearty resolution is a manifestation that the city government of Bacolod truly recognizes the services and contributions of Pangilinan in the different sectors or our community,” the resolution reads.
Talk about MVP running for president is not new. In 2010, media placements launching the “Ako Mismo” advocacy movement fueled speculations that he was keen in the country’s plum post. Public perception then was that the movement was meant to be MVP’s platform had he decided to throw his hat in the political arena.
“If given the chance and if there is a possibility of winning, MVP will run for president,” a businessman said.
But, in a statement, MVP clarified that the movement was intended to awaken and spread the Filipinos’ sense of responsibility as an individual. “Our legacy is that reliance on community, government and family must be balanced by strong personal accountability,” he says.
“As for myself, I am not running for any political office. I am truly at home running a business,” a statement viewed with skepticism by doubting Thomases among eagle-eyed political watchers.
- A Worm’s-Eye View of the Current State of the Philippines (grbusinessonline.wordpress.com)
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- Estrada: Why single us out? (newsinfo.inquirer.net)
- Savills Expands in Asia with New Philippines Associate (savills.co.uk)
- Candy Pangilinan not jealous over Eugene Domingo (entertainment.inquirer.net)
- Top PH firms help quake victims (rappler.com)
- From Pastor Leovin Pangilinan (happybirthdaypastorronald.wordpress.com)
- Nearly 100 Philippine rebels killed or captured (bigstory.ap.org)
- San Miguel to Raise $2 Billion Selling Stake in Manila Electric (bloomberg.com)
- Adjustment letter (innieyyyy.wordpress.com)