MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines’ top tycoons, who were once subjected to curse-laden speeches and regulatory threats, have accepted the apology of President Rodrigo Duterte.
On Tuesday, May 5, Jaime Augusto and Fernando Zobel de Ayala said they are grateful for Duterte’s remarks.
“We have always believed in building a strong partnership between the private and public sectors in addressing our country’s problems and in investing in the country to create jobs and improve the lives of Filipinos,” the Zobels said in a joint statement.
Duterte made the peace overture during a late-night address on the government’s coronavirus response on Monday, May 4. He thanked big business for contributing crucial resources to combat the pandemic. (READ: LIST: Aid from Philippine companies during coronavirus pandemic)
Duterte once threatened to shoot the billionaires in the genitals due to Metro Manila’s water crisis and the allegedly lopsided concession agreement.
The Zobels’ Manila Water and Ayala Land have faced challenges under Duterte’s watch over allegedly “onerous” contracts. (READ: Look back: Duterte’s tussles with big business)
Manila Water is currently finalizing the deal to give Enrique Razon Jr, a billionaire perceived as friendly to Duterte, a controlling stake in the company.
“We are committed to help the President tackle the many challenges he has to deal with and are confident that by working together, our country can overcome each challenge, save lives, and gradually put the country back on a path of growth,” the Zobels said.
Tycoon Manny Pangilinan also thanked Duterte for his promise to be “nice” and discuss better the legal issues of Maynilad Water Services.
“I wish to assure him that our group is fully committed to being a partner of government in addressing the heartbreaking moments of COVID-19 on our people, in building a better tomorrow for them. We are, and have always been here, for the country,” Pangilinan tweeted shortly after Duterte’s speech.
Pangilinan was previously quoted as saying that he will venture into “less risky” businesses due to the regulatory risks under Duterte.
The President had repeatedly criticized the Zobels and Pangilinan after Manila Water and Maynilad won arbitral cases against the government involving billions of pesos.
“There may be legal issues, but I’m ready to talk and I’ll be reasonable. ‘Yung mga masakit kong (My hurtful) talk to Ayalas and Pangilinan, I apologize for the hurting words. If you can find it in your heart to forgive me,” Duterte said as he joked he would “undercut to God” should the businessmen refuse to accept his apology.
Duterte’s remarks pushed up stock prices of Ayala Corporation, Manila Water, and Maynilad’s parent companies Metro Pacific Investments Corporation and DMCI Holdings. – Rappler.com