MVP, RSA open to partnerships with China, Russia firms

By Richmond Mercurio (The Philippine Star)
Updated May 29, 2017 – 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines –  Tycoons Manuel Pangilinan and Ramon Ang are not passing up on opportunities to capitalize on the country’s warming relationship with China and Russia as they welcome potential joint venture deals with firms from these nations.

Pangilinan and Ang said they are open to striking a partnership with Russian and Chinese groups should opportunities arise in line with the Philippines’ new international foreign policy.

With President Duterte’s pursuit of an independent foreign policy, the country is taking steps in strengthening bilateral engagements with non-traditional partners such as Russia and China.

Pangilinan, chairman of infrastructure conglomerate Metro Pacific Investments Corp. (MPIC), said his team is in talks with Chinese firms, mostly as contractors for its tollways and bridge projects.

He admitted, however, that his group is not acquainted to Russian firms yet.

“Yes of course we are interested to partner with them. They have several good Russian firms. We just don’t know them. That’s why Mr. (Michael) Toledo is there with two or more of our people so whatever he gives us as feedback, we’re prepared to talk to them,” Pangilinan told The STAR.

Toledo, MVP Group spokesperson, joined the Philippine business delegation to Russia to scout for possible partners for their different businesses.

The MVP Group’s different businesses include mining through Philex Mining Corp., infrastructure and tollways through MPIC., telecommunications through PLDT, water through Maynilad Water Services Inc. and media through MediaQuest Holdings.

Ang, president and chief operating officer of diversified conglomerate San Miguel Corp. (SMC), meanwhile, also expressed willingness to team up with companies from China and Russia for the group’s various businesses.

“Yes we are open to partner with everybody. But at present, we are not talking to any Russian firms,” Ang said.

Ang said he wanted to join the President’s business delegation to Russia but had to watch over some of SMC’s ongoing projects in the country.

“If it’s only possible, I’ll join all the foreign trips of the government but there is really so much work here,” he said.

SMC is in the business of infrastructure, food through San Miguel Pure Foods, fuel and oil through Petron, energy through SMC Global Power, beer through San Miguel Brewery Inc., liquor through Ginebra San Miguel Inc. and packaging through San Miguel Yamamura Packaging Group.

But while both prominent business personalities seem to welcome the government’s push for closer ties with non-traditional partners such as Russia and China, they have, meanwhile, expressed concerns over the government’s proposed hybrid approach for public-private partnership infrastructure projects.

“I think if they do that, it might affect the good standing balance sheet of the government today. The balance sheet of the Philippines is now good, but if the Philippine government suddenly borrows money for various infrastructure projects, then they will reverse that. Back to the dark days when the Philippine government’s debt is so huge,” Ang said.

Ang also pointed out the risk of corruption in government to government deals.

Under the hybrid approach, projects will be constructed by the government, of which the funding will come from a mix of sources such as bilateral loans, official development assistance and government funds

The project operations and maintenance will later on be auctioned to the private sector.

“Everyone is now moving away from government projects so why should we go back now. The thrust of good governance in every government is privatization and public bidding,” Ang said.