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Why threatened corporate giants will remain

"One cannot, with a colorful rant, will the disappearance of a business enterprise from the scene without taking into account its age and history."

Until around a year ago, Filipinos were of the belief that the largest conglomerates in this country—companies like Ayala Corporation, PLDT and DMCI—were secure in their existence and could be expected to continue operating until well into the future. They got the jolt of their lives when they were told that this was not so and that the Philippine government could destroy these pillars of the Philippine economy within a six-year period.

Was this a fact, the hitherto-confident people asked themselves. Could these giants of Philippine business be easily destroyed by an impulsive and vengeful Philippine government, they said to one another.

The answer to these questions is an emphatic No. There are several reasons for the implausibility of the you-will-be-destroyed threat.

The first and most obvious reason is longevity. One cannot, with a colorful rant, will the disappearance of a business enterprise from the scene without taking to account its age and history. It goes without saying that the longer a business enterprise has been in existence, the deeper are the roots it has put into the ground. Very deep roots are hard to pull up.

Take the case of the Ayala conglomerate. The Ayalas—more accurately, Zobel de Ayala—and their cousins, the Roxases, have been doing business in this country since the mid-19th century. The family has been an active part of the Philippine business scene during the last century and a half, during which time they established, most notably, the second largest domestic commercial bank, BPI (Bank of the Philippine Islands). The Ayala businesses have been good corporate citizens and, as a result of that, have developed goodwill and friendly ties with the Filipino people.

Much he same thing can be said of PLDT, DMCI and other members of the alleged Philippine business “oligarchy.” PLDT has provided telecommunication services to this country for over 100 years; that is far longer than six years. PLDT has not been operating with 100-percent efficiency and many of the complaints against its service and that of its subsidiary, Smart Telecommunications Inc., are valid. But over a century of existence is something that cannot be blown away with one colorful rant.

DMCI is a somehow younger corporate citizen of this republic, but it was painstakingly built by the late David M. Consunji, a man whose professional and personal integrity was never called into question during his lifetime.

Ayala, PLDT, DMCI and one or two other leading Philippine business enterprises—the latest is ABS-CBN— have been charged with being members of a business “oligarchy.” But “oligarch” and “oligarchy” are by no means pejorative words. There are good oligarchs, just as there are bad oligarchs.

A further reason why Ayala et al cannot be ranted out of existence is that over the years of their operations, they have developed expertise and experience in their specific fields of endeavor. Experience is not learned in business school; there is no substitute for it. These companies have become good enough to compete against their peers in other countries.

Instead of being threatened with destruction, they should be supported and encouraged by their government. Rants come cheap; the members of the alleged business oligarchy do not.

The truth is, companies like Ayala, PLDT, DMCI and ABS-CBN are still going to be around many, many years from now. Certainly they will still be here long after the term of this administration ends.

Topics: Rudy Romero , Ayala Corporation , PLDT , DMCI , Philippine economy , ABS-CBN
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