Talking to MVP-A A +A
My Palm Notes
Tuesday, June 19, 2012
HOW does one talk to Manny V. Pangilinan? Yes, him – MVP – of Metro Pacific fame. Yes, him, the man behind PLDT, Smart, Meralco, NLEx and many more.
Or if I may revise the question, when does one get to talk to one of the country’s leading business moguls?
Well, for us in (regional) media circles, MVP does give us a chance to sit down with him at least once a year (aside from interviews during coverages). It’s during the roundtable talks every June of each year with media practitioners from way up north in Baguio to down south Davao in Mindanao. It took place last week after the annual stockholders’ meeting of PLDT in one of Makati’s finest hotels.
A Capampangan himself from Apalit town, MVP tries to feel the pulse of the people from all over the country through members of the Fourth Estate. And that is something that I and my media colleagues are thankful for.
On top of the chance to talk to perhaps the most influential, notable and famous businessman-cabalen in an almost exclusive and privileged manner, I am thankful that he gets to share (and intimates, probably) his thoughts on a lot of subjects that could be considered as “boardroom-only” discussions.
So, what did we (media from his own province – Ashley Manabat, Rey Navales, Albert Lacanlale and Joey Pavia. PLDT-SMART gave five slots from a total of about 20 from all over the country) discuss with MVP?
Of course, topping our list was his continuing interest to invest in Diosdado Macapagal International Airport or DMIA (I’m sure he does not mind using the same name instead of Clark International Airport in honor of Apung Dadong).
Here are some highlights of that talks that lasted for about an hour. No thanks though to an awaiting Meralco meeting where MVP had to drag his feet onto as he seemed to have enjoyed his tête-à-tête with the media.
DMIA. On the very first question tossed to him by Joey Pavia who represented Business Mirror and Punto, MVP had to give an update on his interest to an airport that has been designated as the country’s future premier gateway some 18 years ago (yes, it was in 1994 when President Ramos issued Executive Order 174 calling for such).
While Joey’s question centered on building a new terminal at DMIA, MVP gave a broader perspective in running an airport.
“Terminals are only part of an ecosystem. As you also experience it, it is where you check in and check out your luggage et cetera. What is hidden from you are avionics like radar system, communications facilities, instrument landing system, weather instruments.
“While terminals are the most visible part of an airport, it is just one of the aspects that need to be looked at.”
MVP went on by talking about the need for government to put in place inter-modal transport systems that would connect DMIA to elsewhere. He has to make a distinction though between Northrail which he said is a “commuter line for Filipinos” and the need to have a so-called “Airport Express”.
“Commuter trains would have many stops while an Airport Express will have few like the one that operates in Narita (Japan). It stops only at the Tokyo terminal.”
For the Clark Airport Express, there should only be three stops between Makati and DMIA and he identified them to be at Balintawak or somewhere in Trinoma or SM North in Quezon City, the second one to be located somewhere in Manila like Dimasalang or UST then the last one at Buendia Avenue in Makati. A set-up he says that is similar to Hong Kong where it is a lot easier to travel.
Why the need to have this Airport Express? MVP was quick to add that airline executives from all over the planet that he has talked to had emphasized the need to have one in Clark if it is to become a premier gateway indeed.
“The important thing, frankly, is for government to offer the riding public a full range of transportation options like taxi, jeep, bus and rail. I thought the concept of Northrail was a good one because it offers people to take the rail in going to work. The rail system also decongests the city.
“As to suggestions on the need to have a rail alignment at NLEx (which Metro Pacific also operates), ang sagot ko duon eh, ‘Boss (referring to the government) we don’t own NLEx, you own it. You could always use it’.”
He emphasized though that the alignment for a proposed rail should not be the median but the sides of the expressway in order to avoid overpasses and bridges, a rail system also similar to Narita.
This writer joins sectors and stakeholders who call for a rail alignment inside NLEx and Metro Pacific operation of a rail system. It is practicable, viable and would save government billions of pesos in right-of-way and expropriation problems.
To conclude his thoughts on how to make Clark (and the government) succeed in having the premier gateway at DMIA, he said this is something that has been accomplished somewhere.
“This is not rocket science. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Other people had done it.”
With that and on direct question if he is still interested in the Clark airport (with all the ever changing and unstable policy directions through all the years), MVP – without batting an eyelash – quickly said “YES, DEFINITELY.”
“Because it is an international airport. And it is the best candidate for that. Kasi Capampangan ako”. Luid ka Cabalen Apung Manny.
INVESTING IN SCHOOLS? Ahhh yes, just as every concerned parent would have wanted him and Metro Pacific to also handle schools, the business tycoon clarified that he is not going that far. Sorry guys, maybe next time.
Answering my question whether the announcement that he is now the new chairman of the board of Holy Angel University in Angeles City is a prelude to his interest to also invest in universities and academic institutions, MVP said that is not part of his plans.
His acceptance of the chairmanship of HAU was in response to an invitation from the university’s president Arlene Villanueva whose family – the Nepomucenos – own the school. Mrs. Villanueva is the wife of Ateneo College of Law Dean Cesar Villanueva who is also from Angeles City. The latter once served as chairman of CDC Board of Directors and is now one of the nominees for Supreme Court Chief Justice.
THE NBA. Our Cabalen, as a lot of people would probably know it, is big into basketball. Two corporate giants under Metro Pacific are in the PBA – Talk and Text and Meralco. In PBA’s developmental league is the team of NLEx Road Warriors who just won its third straight championship.
The global businessperson and visionary that he is, MVP is still in talks for the acquisition of Sacramento Kings in the NBA. This team has long been in the red and it was only the city that is helping it out. But that cannot be sustained and it needs new investors.
The possibility of acquisition first surfaced last year but did not push through as the City of Sacramento bailed out the team. For the 2012-2013 season, the Kings are still in need of solid financial backing to sustain its multimillion dollar operations. And yes, MVP is still talking to some brokers and owners. But sadly, he could not disclose details.
I would not be surprised if MVP or Metro Pacific becomes one of the Kings’ new owners, even in the midst of negotiations or deep interest shown by Microsoft’s CEO Steve Ballmer to acquire the team and move it to Seattle, Washington where his company is headquartered. With MVP’s far reaching business network, a tie-up with Microsoft and other Forbes Top 100 companies is always possible.
I have also asked MVP who he is rooting for in the NBA Finals. You guessed it right – Miami Heat – but only because of Fil-Am coach Erik Spoelstra. One reason why other Pinoys would probably do the same. He admits though that the Oklahama City Thunder is the stronger team.
PLDT HIGHLIGHTS. In that meeting, focus was given in the improvement of services of Digitel and its wireless arm Sun Cellular which PLDT acquired last year.
As fears (brought by acquisition) were effectively allayed, it now appears that a great majority of consumers and subscribers have actually benefitted by the merger. Sun has better signal in the provinces of Lanao, Basilan, Camiguin, Tawi-tawi, Sulu, Bukidnon, Compostela Valley and Davao Del Sur. Sun shines better also now in Luzon provinces of Isabela, Mountain Province, Kalinga Apayao, Nueva Ecija, Nueva Vizcaya, Aurora and Quirino. In the Visayas region, great deal of improvements has also been made in Iloilo, Aklan, Antique, Capiz and Guimaras.
Both Digitel and Sun have largely been a recipient of PLDT/SMART’s P38-billion modernization program since 2011. So don’t be surprised now if Sun’s reach, audio quality and services would be like that of SMART’s as P29 billion more will be spent until 2013.
SIDELIGHTS. Believe you me, MVP is not the too-serious-and-no-joke person at all. Of course he does know how to crack jokes even if the world seemed to be on his shoulders with all the problems that Metro Pacific companies deal with.
I like the way he describes the runway of NAIA which gave us the impression that he sees it as potholed and everything. What made me say that?
Well, for one he even had a sound effect for an aircraft landing. “Tsug tsug tsug,” he said with corresponding description of a “shake, rattle and roll.”
As to his handling of questions during the stockholders meeting, the PLDT Chairman was gracious enough to entertain them even if some were a bit off or wayward (like questions on how much PLDT paid for the meeting venue and compare it to millions spent on Talk and Text team operations).
He is, by PLDT’s rules in that meeting, not actually obliged to answer all of them but decided to entertain the most trivial ones like complaints on internet connections and the like.
Published in the Sun.Star Pampanga newspaper on June 20, 2012.