File photo by Martin San Diego/Rappler
Amid rumors of other billionaires setting their eyes on the water distribution business of Metro Manila, tycoon Manny V. Pangilinan assured Maynilad executives that he will not let a hostile takeover happen under his watch.
"We will not sell our company; we will not stand down," Pangilinan declared during the Chirstmas party of Maynilad's top executives late evening of Monday, December 16. (Read Francis Lim's take on the issue: Fiasco for the investing public)
A high-ranking official told Rappler that the Maynilad board of directors were "more or less" complete in what seemed to be more than just a typical company Christmas party. (READ: Duterte threatens Ayalas, Pangilinan after Manila Water arbitration win)
Pangilinan was joined by his vice chair Isidro Consunji, Maynilad chief executive officer Ramoncito Fernandez, and chief operating officer Randolph Estrellado.
Other officials from the Metro Pacific Investments Corporation, DM Consunji Incorporated, as well as Japanese investors were also present during the party held in an exclusive restaurant inside the Meralco compound.
Officials dined in the so-called Lighthouse, where they were served baked salmon, seafood paella, angus beef, and pistachio eclairs. Senior executives then went on to jam, belting out '70s and '80s hit songs.
After the fanfare, Pangilinan delivered a short speech that reassured the board and sent a clear signal to the outside world: the man is not backing down.
"When they go low, we go high... It's best that we just focus on our customers and deliver them the best service that we have been doing for the past 12 to 13 years," the billionaire said in a video seen by Rappler. (READ: Look back: Duterte's tussles with big business)
"This is a product of your sweat, blood, and tears. Nobody should and will take it away. It belongs to us, the board, the Filipino people," Pangilinan added.
The speech, which lasted less than 5 minutes, was enough to boost the morale of the embattled company.
Maynilad and Manila Water's fate is in murky waters after the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System revoked the extension of their respective concession agreements, after President Rodrigo Duterte slammed the allegedly onerous provisions in the contracts.
While Duterte echoed what progressive groups have been pointing out for decades since water became privatized, speculation of it being a sinister business move can't be shrugged off.
Duterte has publicly praised and would even "die" for Manny Villar, another tycoon who has business interests in water.
The President graced the former Senate president's birthday just days after he questioned Maynilad and Manila Water's concession agreement. He even asked for Villar's advice over the matter during the celebration.
Villar and Duterte have strong ties, which officially began when Villar pledged the support of his party, Nacionalista Party, to Duterte's political party, PDP-Laban, during the 2016 presidential campaign.
Duterte appointed Villar's son Mark as public works secretary, despite the Villars' interests in land development through Vista Land – which puts the young Villar in a potential conflict-of-interest situation. Manny Villar's wife, Senator Cynthia Villar, is a key administration ally, often invited to Malacañang events.
Will other tycoons join the rumble? – Rappler.com