Amigos para siempre


With Acciona’s Ruben Camba, Metro Pacific Investments Corp.’s Atty. Marilyn Aquino and Joey Lim, Economic and Commercial Counsellor of the Embassy of Spain Pedro Pascual, Ambassador of Spain to the Philippines Luis Calvo, Acciona’s Fernando Fajardo, Metro Pacific Investments Corp.’s Manny Pangilinan,First Philippine Holdings Corp.’s Federico Lopez and Francis Giles Puno, First Balfour’s Anthony Fernandez, Metro Pacific Investments Corp.’s Joseph Lacson

by Manila Standard (posted 11 July 2017 in http://www.thestandard.com.ph/business/business-columns/-mike-about-town-by-mike-t-toledo/239065/amigos-para-siempre.html)

Every Filipino knows that Philippine Independence Day is celebrated every twelfth of June to commemorate the Declaration of Independence from Spain on June 12, 1898, and this commemoration has been so since 1962.

Times have changed. Where before, countries, kingdoms or empires sought to conquer, rule, or assimilate, nowadays it is all about amity, openness, and free trade. Globalization, with all its blessings as well as unintended ill-effects, is the mantra embraced by all. While this concept was recently challenged by protectionist and populist polices, the reality is globalization, enhanced by innovation and technological advancement, is here to stay.

On this day of our commemoration of the declaration of independence from Spain, it is apropos that we discuss our continued friendship, our political and economic relations with Spain.

Last week, I was part of a small group invited by His Excellency Luis Antonio Calvo Castaño, the dynamic Ambassador of Spain to the Philippines, Palau, Micronesia and the Marshall Islands, to a working lunch at his residence to discuss, among other things, trade relations between Spain and the Philippines.

Almost a year ago, I wrote about how every June 30 was celebrated as Philippine-Spanish Friendship Day by Republic Act No. 9187, which was authored by distinguished statesman and Senator Edgardo J. Angara, and about how I celebrated that day in Baler upon Senator Angara’s invitation. Incidentally, Senator Angara was recently conferred, together with Senator Frank Drilon, with the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun by Emperor Hirohito of Japan, but that is best reserved for another time in history, err, another column piece.

Present at the working lunch were: The Metro Pacific Investments Corporation (MPIC) headed by Chairman Manuel V. Pangilinan, Director Atty. Marilyn V. Aquino, who is also the newly-minted president of MetroPac Movers Inc. (the logistics company of Metro Pacific), President and CEO Jose Ma. Lim, Chief Investment Officer Joseph Lacson, and myself; the Lopez Group’s First Philippine Holdings composed of Chairman and CEO Federico Lopez, President and COO Francis Giles Puno, and First Balfour President and CEO Anthony Fernandez; and representatives of ACCIONA Infraestructuras, S.A. led by Fernando Fajardo, Managing Director for Australia, New Zealand and Asia-Pacific, and Ruben Camba Garcia, Director for Singapore and Southeast Asia.

Spanish Embassy officials who joined the luncheon with Ambassador Calvo were Pedro Pascual, Economic and Commercial Counsellor; Maria Angeles Romo, Commercial Division Officer; and Jose Primo Santos, Economic and Commercial Analyst.

The MVP Group, through MPIC, is into energy generation and distribution, water, tollways, hospitals, airports, railways (light and heavy), agriculture, logistics, other infrastructure projects. The First Philippine Holdings is into energy, property, and construction.

ACCION Infraestructuras, S.A., on the other hand, is a Spanish conglomerate with world-wide projects in construction, concessions, water, industrial, and other services.

From the discussion, we can sense that the Spanish group was bullish about doing business in the Philippines. However, they shared their apprehension, as was usually the case, on consistency of policies, transparency, and respect for contacts. ACCIONA officers revealed to us about their sad experience in other countries where their respective governments changed the rules of the game midway. I trust that this concern would be something that the current administration under President Rodrigo Roa Duterte would be able to take care of.

While having dessert (the chocolate cake was muy delicioso), robust discussions traversed into the realm of which is better: Official Development Assistance (ODA), Public – Private Partnership (PPP) or the Hybrid PPP. The consensus was that while a form may have its impact, what really matters is the prompt delivery of a much-needed project that would bring great benefit to the people at reasonable cost.

Projects undertaken by Spanish conglomerates here, also in joint venture with local conglomerates like Metro Pacific and First Philippine Holdings, are prime examples of PPPs that government can consider. This goes beyond mere ODA which usually takes the form of dole-out with strings attached.

Government and the business sector can be akin to a matador that lures in that bull called development, or takes it by the horns and controls it in the direction that it wants to, that it deems fit.

To that, I say “Olé!”