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Aboitiz family: We’re not an oligarchy

February 18, 2008 ·  , Philippine Daily Inquirer

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CEBU CITY, Philippines — An Aboitiz company official has denied that their businesses have benefited from the family?s close ties with the First Family as implied during the Senate hearing on the National Broadband Network (NBN) deal.

“We are friends but, you know, I don’t think it’s fair to say that we benefited from it. It’s not correct to say that we benefited,” said Erramon I. Aboitiz, president and chief executive officer of Aboitiz Power Corp., when asked about his family?s relationship with President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo.

In an interview after a press briefing on their power business held Monday afternoon, Aboitiz called the President and her husband as “friends from the past.”

“We knew them before, about 30 years now. We remain friends,” he added.

He maintained that businesses of the Aboitiz family have been growing but these have “nothing to do” with their friendship with the Arroyos.

“Our businesses have grown because the economy has grown and because of the investments we have made. We competed with everybody else on a level playing field. If you look at our biddings, we won some; we lost some; we paid a high price for some. That could have happened in any administration,” Aboitiz pointed out.

When asked how he felt about their family being mentioned as one of the oligarchies that have been holding state policies hostage, Aboitiz said he did not feel anything because “I know what the truth is.”

According to Rodolfo “Noel” Lozada Jr., who testified about the bribes and overpricing in the now aborted National Broadband Network deal, Commission on Higher Education Chairman Romulo Neri, a former socio-economic planning secretary, made an analysis of political and economic power structure in the country that skewed state policies for the benefit of oligarchic interests “in an ecosystem of corruption.”

Lozada mentioned the Aboitiz family, businessmen Enrique Razon and Tomas Alcantara and Chinese-Filipino tycoon Lucio Tan among the oligarchs that Neri mentioned as controlling economic policies.

The Aboitiz Power has been participating in the biddings for some power plants under the privatization scheme implemented by the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp., including the 360-megawatt Magat hydroelectric plant in Isabela province.

Aboitiz Power, through its joint venture company SN Aboitiz Power Inc., won the Magat bidding on December 2006 when it submitted the highest bid at $530 million.

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