MANILA, Philippines - The year 2012 is marked by breakups and makeups for Manuel V. Pangilinan, the head of the country's largest infrastructure group, leading telecommunications firm, top power retailer and biggest gold producer.
He tells Rappler it's an annus horribilis, the latin phrase for horrible year.
Throughout the year, the tycoon tries to court the second largest TV network, GMA-7. But GMA's boss plays hard to get.
"It's on and off," he said.
In October acquisition talks fail. It's the third time the parties try to get into bed with each other.
Clearly, this relationship is complicated.
Recently, GMA-7 chair Felipe Gozon says he's open to another offer. One of Pangilinan's managers joke they should send roses.
In the meantime, Pangilinan will be investing more in his current flame, the 3rd biggest TV network TV5. His firm bought the network in 2009 but since then it has lost at least 8 billion pesos.
Complications with government projects
Another place Pangilinan is not feeling the love is from government.
It slapped a P1 billion fine on Philex Mining, the country's poster boy for responsible mining, for a tailings spill after heavy rain.
"It is severe and substantial... Nature acting on her own caused that particular incident.... It's unfortunate. It's something we did not foresee," he said in Rappler's #TalkThursday interview.
This blow comes after the Aquino government issues a mining policy that spells uncertainty for Philex's future.
At the same time, Pangilinan's infrastructure group is at a standstill on 3 major projects that require final government approval: the Metro Rail Transit System Line 3 (MRT-30, the connector project for the North Luzon and South Luzon expressways (NLEx-SLEx road link) and the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEx).
The status of these projects? Complicated.
The President is still reviewing the final terms of the deal with Pangilinan's group for the NLEx-SLEx connector road.
The government put a ring on it, so to speak, when it conditionally awarded the contract to operate the expressway to Pangilinan's Metro Pacific two years ago.
Though the status of this relationship may be "engaged," it is not officially a union.
The project has not been formally turned over and the government may even re-bid the coveted expressway completely.
Another project, the MRT-3, may also be headed for splitsville.
In the past, Pangilinan asserted that his group holds the rights to expand and develop the rail system.
Now the government says it will buy up other stakes in the MRT-3 and bid the project out, depriving Pangilinan's Metro Pacific of a first crack at the project.
An open relationship with Ateneo
But that's not all. In 2012, the tycoon's relationship with his alma mater Ateneo turns rocky.
In September he parts ways with the university citing differences over issues like mining and the reproductive health.
The next month he cozies up to Ateneo's biggest rival, the University of the Philippines, with a P5 million donation.
But barely two months after the break-up, Ateneo wins him back.
Current status? In an "open relationship."
Dragged into political drama
But it's not just business and basketball that's been a pain. There's also politics.
Pangilinan was dragged into a word war in the Senate.
Sen. Antonio Trillanes claims Pangilinan fueled anti-Chinese sentiments with the country's Foreign Secretary to further his business interests. Pangilinan calls the senator a liar.
Fuming, he says he could go back to Hong Kong, the home base of Metro Pacific.
But Pangilinan is heavily invested in the Philippines, economically and emotionally, and it doesn't look like he will leave.
"We are business people, so as in most places, people will look for the hospitable places to invest in," he says.
Hopefully, 2013 will be a new chapter. He says he learned one important lesson from the trials of 2012.
"Patience," he says. - Rappler.com
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