MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday thanked business tycoons Fernando Zobel de Ayala and Manuel V. Pangilinan for helping the government respond to the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) health crisis.
Describing the pandemic was a “humbling experience”, the President also apologized saying he was no longer the snob as before when he refused to speak with them, as he stressed gratefulness for their continued assistance.
“I’d like to thank you from the bottom of my heart for helping us — helping us, you know, provide the necessities of the moment. We can — I can promise you that I’ll be nice and if you want to see me, we can talk,” he said in a taped public address aired late Monday night.
“Naubos na ho iyong pagkasuplado ko kasi — dahil sa the (I have gone past being snobby because the) Covid humbled me. That with the kind of response that you gave, showed to the public, it’s a humbling experience also for me that, you know, baka kailangan mo rin sila balang araw (you might need them someday),” he added.
Duterte recognized that there would be “a lot of legal issues” between the government and the business owners, but was willing to be “reasonable” the next time they had a chance to talk.
“To the Ayalas and to — si Pangilinan, I apologize for the hurting words. If you can find in your heart to forgive me because if you do not then I will ask — if you do not want to forgive me, I will undercut you. I’ll go direct to God,” he said.
Water concessionaire Manila Water is a subsidiary of the Ayala Corp. while Pangilinan’s Metro Pacific Investments Corp. owns a controlling stake in Maynilad.
In December last year, Duterte threatened to file charges against the two water firms for allegedly entering into onerous agreements with the government.
His tiff with Ayala and Pangilinan started after the Permanent Court of Arbitration in Singapore, in its separate rulings, compelled the Philippines to pay PHP7.39 billion and PHP3.4 billion to Manila Water and Maynilad, respectively, for supposed losses and damages suffered by the two water firms.
On January 7, the President gave the two water firms the option to either accept the new water contracts or face cancellation of their present deals.
Since finding out that the contracts were “disadvantageous” to the government and the public, Duterte said he would not hesitate to have the tycoons detained over syndicated estafa or plunder raps and floated the possibility of asking the military to take over water operations.
In March, Duterte expressed willingness to resolve their conflicts with the two water firms. (ia/PNA)