MVP: Res ipsa loquitur

FILIPINO WORLDVIEW - Roberto R. Romulo - The Philippine Star

During the June annual shareholders meeting of PLDT, Manny Pangilinan (popularly known by his initials MVP) retired from his position as president and CEO of PLDT, with Al Panlilio taking his place.

When MVP took over as president and CEO in 1998, PLDT’s service revenues stood at P54.5 billion. He leaves with revenues growing more than three-fold to P171.5 billion. But what is remarkable is how he has transformed PLDT from a pure landline telephony provider into a diversified telecommunications and technology conglomerate, offering a wide array of communications and IT solutions through the industry-leading reach and capabilities of its landline, wireless, and internet-based businesses.

In 1998, fixed line voice, including long distance services, contributed up to 79 percent of revenues. Today, data services make up 73 percent of revenues, having grown from P1.6 billion in 1998 to P124.5 billion at the end of 2020. The subscriber base was about three million in 1998. Today that has grown to 79 million, of which 73 million are cellular.

And he did it without sacrificing profitability. In 1998, earnings before taxes and dividends (EBITDA) totaled P26 billion. He leaves the company with an EBITDA at P88.8 billion in FY2020. Telco core income for FY2020 was P28.1 billion from a net income of P1.6 billion in FY1998.

MVP launched PLDT’s transformation in 1999 when he forged a strategic partnership with NTT Communications Corp (NTT Com), a wholly owned subsidiary of Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp. of Japan, the world’s leading telecommunications company in terms of revenues.  He bundled that up with the acquisition of Smart – which has since become the country’s largest mobile phone operator.

In subsequent years, he leveraged PLDT’s strength in fixed and mobile networks to deliver world-class internet services. ePLDT was formed to be the PLDT Group’s principal vehicle for investments in information and communication technology. From its in-house innovation that created the world’s first low denomination over-the-air electronic currency for mobile top-ups grew Voyager Innovations.  PLDT founded Voyager Innovations in 2013, which has since become a leading financial technology company in the Philippines focused on developing customer-centric emerging market platforms in the areas of digital payments, digital finance, and marketing technologies. It has helped accelerate digital and financial inclusion in the Philippines and enabled the broader Filipino population to participate in the digital economy, including through its fintech subsidiaries PayMaya and Smart Padala.

In 2018, he led PLDT in gearing up for a new wave of digital innovation unleashed by new technologies such as 5G, artificial intelligence, and the internet of things (IoT).  In 2020, PLDT was first to commercialize 5G technology in the country.

Under MVP, PLDT has acknowledged its role of being a steward of the planet for the next generation and is paying serious attention to sustainability.  PLDT’s Sustainability Office is tasked to help develop the group’s business operations and corporate social responsibility activities in ways that would help create a sustainable future for both the company and the country. As a result, the group has already started to roll out several initial programs such as the carbon offsetting initiatives through reforestation, mangroves conservation, marine protection and peatlands protection – which leverage the use of mobile technology and connectivity.  With its corporate purpose of “connecting and empowering Filipinos everywhere”, the PLDT Group is also investing in cyber security and data privacy to protects is customers in the use of data and broadband. Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, the company has provided continuity through digital connectivity aside from direct contributions through donations and payment extensions.

MVP turns over the PLDT presidency having fulfilled his motto of “Pivot or Perish.” It mirrors his own transformation from a finance wiz to a technology innovator. When I first met him in 1998, I asked, “What do you know about technology?.”  As the Latin words above state, “his performance speaks for itself.”


Former Ambassador Monina Estrella Callangan Rueca recently wrote a book entitled Guide to Protocol. It is a must read for all government officials.  Palace protocol knows all about it, but their challenge is the President.  “Protocol” does not seem to be in his vocabulary, nor “human rights.”

My doctors

I have been locked down at home since March 11, 2020 due to my share of health challenges.  I would like to express my profound gratitude to Dra. Ruth Divinagracia, Dr. Fabio Posas, Dr. Salvador “Popeye” Abad Santos, Dra. Alessandra Laya and Dr. Marvin Basco, and of course St. Luke‘s Medical Center in Global City.

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