Villar featured in Forbes Asia Magazine
By Christina Mendez
The Philippine Star
MANILA, Philippines – If elected president, Nacionalista Party standard-bearer Sen. Manuel “Manny” Villar Jr. will be the first businessman elected into the highest office in the land.
Forbes Asia magazine recently ran a story on Villar’s candidacy, his struggle out of poverty, and his promise to apply a business management style of governance when elected president.
Last year, Villar ranked ninth on the Forbes list of the Philippines’ 40 Richest, having a net worth of $530 million.
The article, written by Simon Montlake, said Villar might follow the formula of former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, a business tycoon turned politician who mixed business and politics to expand his telecom concessionaire.
In Forbes’ interview with Villar, the candidate admitted that Shinawatra is indeed a friend but said he would not face the same suspicions of conflict of interest as he did. He also maintained that he would not use his public office to expand his family’s business interests.
Forbes noted that the Philippines’ economic growth has been lagging behind those of its neighbors like Thailand and Indonesia because of decades of “mismanagement” and “dynastic” rule.
“Foreign investors chasing growth gave a wide berth to the Sick Man of Asia, as the country became known. The collapse of the Marcos dictatorship in 1986 restored democracy but failed to deliver promised social reforms or dynamic growth,” Forbes said.
Forbes noted that the Philippine economy did expand during President Arroyo’s nine-year rule but poverty was barely eliminated.
Villar promises to end poverty in the country if elected president by opening up the country’s tight domestic financial sector to more competition, giving small businesses greater access to credit.
“We’ve got to let the foreign banks come in,” he told Forbes.
He also promises to convince foreign investors he met as a corporate chief executive to invest in the Philippines.
‘There’s so much money out there. You just have to impress them. You have to show them that this is one guy who can manage,” he said.
Villar’s campaign was recently rocked by allegations that he influenced the Philippine Stock Exchange to free up 1.2 billion of the 5.3 billion secondary shares of Vista Land and Lifescapes Inc. outside of the 180-day lockup period to take advantage of the bullish market. He, however, denied the allegation.
His toughest opponent, Liberal Party standard-bearer Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, was described in the article as a “saintly figure to Filipinos and part of the landed elite.”
Forbes has called Villar a “brown taipan” or a purely Filipino tycoon.
In 1995, Villar and his wife Cynthia, had a combined net worth of $1.4 billion after a successful initial public offering of C&P Homes shares.
“We have to think like Chinese-Filipinos… Unless we’re able to build a strong entrepreneurial class, we’re never going to be able to move forward,” Villar said. “I’ve worked all my life so I can be independent.”
Early in his campaign, Villar had also been beleaguered with allegations of double insertion on the C-5 Road extension project.
Makati Business Club executive director Alberto Lim was quoted in the interview saying Villar is not fit to become the next president because he “has used his (political) power to amass his wealth.”