The book, as its front cover states, is “a case study of corruption, cronyism and regulatory capture in the Philippines.”
The book benefits from Tiglao’s experience as journalist (Business Day and Far Eastern Economic Review) as he pierced through the corporate layers to see who is really behind what we think is Manuel V. Pangilinan’s expanding empire.
Tiglao said his book, “tells how an Indonesian magnate built up a new business empire outside his country in just 18 years – dwarfing others owned by Filipino magnates – and why a foreigner has been allowed to do so by Philippine authorities despite the clear constitutional restrictions on foreign control.”
The Indonesian is Anthoni Salim – a name that most Filipinos have not heard of.
Tiglao said Salim “ has never been seen in public here, if ever he had stepped on Philippine soil.”
“Yet his conglomerate in the country consists of public utility enterprises in which the Constitution bars foreigners from controlling,” the author said.
Tiglao gave an overview of Salim’s hold on Philippine economy:
“Salim through First Pacific, now controls and most owns the biggest conglomerate of public utility companies in the Philippines. Its 26 percent shares in PLDT make it the controlling stockholder in the country of the biggest telecommunications firm that has 70 percent of the telecom market. Its two huge public-utility firms are Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) which has monopoly of power distribution in Metropolitan Manila and six adjacent provinces, and Maynilad Water, the water-distribution monopoly for the western part of the Metropolis. It also has a major mining company, Philex Mining and Exploration, with its four oil and gas exploration subsidiaries, one of which has as its area of exploration in a disputed area in the Spratly islands.
“Through his holding firm MPIC (Metro Pacific Investments Corp.), Salim controls Metro Pacific Rollways Corp., now the biggest toll and expressway operator in the country managing the North Luzon Expressway, the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway and Manila-Cavite Expressway.
“In partnership with the Ayala group (who were big supporters of the Aquino family) the Salim conglomerate also won the P1 billion worth of projects to operate an automated fare collection system for the mass transit lines. Other infrastructure projects awarded to Salim’s group by the Aquino administration are the P11 billion NLEX Harbor Link, the P7 billion NLEX Citi Link, and the P12.4 billion Connector Road/Metro Expressway Link. The group has diversified into bridge construction as well with its P18 billion project to build the Cebu-Cordova Bridge.”
Tiglao said, “The Indonesian Salim is even the first magnate in the country to establish a health services conglomerate with Metro Pacific Hospital Holdings, Inc. – owned 60 percent by his holding firm MPIC – now owning or controlling eleven of the most advanced hospitals in Metro Manila and other urban centers.”
Tiglao asked why Philippine media has not dwelt on Salim and his acquisitions that violate the Constitution.
He provided part of the answer: “Salim has even the gall to go into media, an industry in which the Philippine Constitution bans a single foreign-owned share. Using PLDT’s pension fund called the Beneficial Trust Fund, Salim has built the biggest multi-media empire in the country which includes Philippine Star and BusinessWorld both of which he controls and Philippine Daily Inquirer in which he is the second biggest stockholder. Salim’s media outfits are TV5, the third biggest broadcast media network, with its more than a dozen TV and radio stations all over the country, its Internet news site Interaksyon.com, and the country’s largest satellite direct-to-home television service.”
Tiglao’s book unmasks businessman Manuel V. Pangilinan as proxy for Salim in the Philippines.
“Pangilinan is First Pacific’s highest paid executive, with his compensation in 2015 amounting to $7.5 million, bigger than the $2.8 million of the firm’s chairman and majority owner Salim or of the other two executive directors. It is very likely that if included are his other salaries in PLDT, Meralco, MPIC and at least a dozen other First Pacific subsidiaries, Pangilinan is the highest paid executive in the country making roughly P1.5 million for each of his working day.”
Tiglao, A columnist of The Manila Times (he also used to write a column in The Philippine Daily Inquirer), ends every chapter of his book with the question, “What kind of country have we become?”
It’s a question that many of us are asking.
The book is available at the National Book Store and Popular Book Store.