The past two years and nine months of the COVID-19 pandemic were a litmus test of the resilience of the Filipino people and many businesses.
I am happy to note that the Philippines has just survived the worst pandemic and the worst economic crisis of the last 100 years.
COVID-19 infected four million Filipinos. About 64,000 died. Another 60,000 died, but their cause of death was not blamed on COVID—an act of dishonesty during a time of grave peril.
In the third quarter of 2022, the economy continued its frenetic growth, after coming from a crippling 16.9 percent decline in the second quarter of 2020—the height of the pandemic.
Since then, the economy has pulled itself up, registering an awesome 12.1 percent jump in the second quarter of 2021 before steadying at a robust pace of 7.0 in Q3 2021, 7.8 in Q4 2021, 8.2 in Q1 2022, 7.5 in Q2 2022, and 7.6 in the third quarter this year.
Government economists could have reported a 7.7 percent growth in Q3 2022 to satisfy President BBM’s love for the No. 7, and gotten away with it, but did not claim a 7.7 percent growth clip.
The 7.6 per cent third quarter GDP growth beat everyone’s expectations.
Anyway, average GDP growth for nine months is –7.7 percent.
If the last quarter, October-December, usually a strong one for the economy, manages to eke out 7 percent, average whole growth 2022 will be 7.38 percent.
Against that happy backdrop, let me cite among the best CEOs who did spectacularly in the last two years and nine months. They are, in no particular order:
1. San Miguel Corporation President and CEO Ramon S. Ang
His aggressive pandemic response, reasonable pricing for SMC’s products, and large-scale investments in food production, storage battery, refined petroleum products, and infrastructure make life better for most Filipinos and accelerate economic recovery and growth.
His P735-billion New Manila International Airport in Bulacan is the single largest investment by any company ever. He leads SMC to unprecedented growth.
2. Finance Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno
As the Bangko Sentral governor, he engineered the largest ever cash infusion into the economy, P2.3 trillion, to rescue the country and enable it to overcome the worst pandemic and the worst economic slump in 100 years, towards a path of sustained growth and inclusion. He became the Asia’s—and the world’s—best central banker.
In turn, his job as President Marcos Jr.’s chief economic manager is made easier but no less daring.
3. Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda
He uses intellectual heft, rigid research, a punishing work ethic, and a pro-nation visioning to create the most disaster-resilient province, Albay, and to produce the most innovative and high-impact pieces of legislation ever from Congress, such as TRAIN (to boost infra), CREATE (to infuse capital), Free College Tuition (to boost human capital), the Philippine Space Agency, Balik Scientist Program, National Broadband, the Virology Institute, the Center for Disease Control, and Ligao City which he fathered.
4. SMIC Vice Chair and BDO Chair Teresita Sy-Coson
She made BDO the largest Philippine bank, bar none, and the most profitable during the nine months of 2022 (P4 billion profits per month).
The two biggest most valuable Philippine companies—SM Prime and SM Investments Corp.—each with P1 trillion value, are controlled by the family which makes the Sy family the richest locally.
Tessie is one of Asia’s most powerful women. She sustained SMIC as the largest conglomerate with businesses that are buoyant, nimble, hugely profitable; focused on sustainability, greater customer satisfaction; and trailblazing in new and even bigger sectors of the economy.
4. Union Bank President and CEO Edwin R. Bautista
He made UB No. 1 in digital banking, the most profitable (an amazing 94% return in 3 years), and one of the most competitive in terms of speed, reliability, effectivity, and timely delivery, quality, and price of financial products and services. In the process, UB boosted financial inclusion and democratized banking.
5. RCBC President and CEO Eugene Acevedo
Under him, RCBC regained traction and has become The Best Digital Bank, the Best Brand for SMEs, and the Best in Financial Inclusion for its best-in-class products and services, digitalization initiatives, and financial inclusion.
Earnings doubled in one year, profits are up 88% in 9 months of 2022, and return on equity is up to a hefty 19.4%.
6. PLDT Chair and First Pacific CEO Manuel V. Pangilinan
From scratch, he built one of Asia’s leading conglomerates with leadership stakes in four growth areas—consumer food, telco, infrastructure, and natural resources with an asset value of $4.2 billion—$1.74 billion in Indofood, $1.44 billion in PLDT, and $751 million in Metro Pacific Investments Corp., and a sterling 17 percent dividend 18-year growth, while enhancing shareholder value, sustainability, and human capital.
7. PLDT President and CEO Al Panlilio
PLDT has become the leading and most diversified telco conglomerate in the Philippines, with a culture of innovation, customer focus, tight financial management, and commitment to digitalization that enhance the life of the people and business, and provide digital solutions to their daily challenges using the most powerful and broadest connectivity network.
8. First Philippine Holdings CEO Federico “Piki” Lopez
He has led the Lopez group into a massive transition into low-carbon energy and renewables and into creating the largest portfolio of clean, renewable, and indigenous fuels such as steam, water, wind, solar, and natural gas, thus uplifting people’s lives without compromising the environment.
He is the Management Man of the Year of the Management Association of the Philippines, which has 1,000 CEOs, for 2021-2022.
9. Robinsons Retail Holdings CEO Robina Gokongwei-Pe
Low-key but tough, she has assembled an amazing portfolio of retail businesses staggering in diversity, formats, and breath of offerings, with cutting edge in supermarkets (No. 1), drug stores (No. 1), and specialty shops (No. 1) for toys, pets, and mothers, serving a broad range of consumers, from the poorest to the richest.
10. Globe Telecom CEO Ernest Cu
He made Globe Telecom the No. 1 cellular company and a vast profit machine for the Ayala Group.
Globe’s Gcash is an emerging financial behemoth and probably is the biggest virtual bank in the country today, with P6 trillion in total value of transactions.