Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has shown a rare streak of humility by apologising to business tycoons he once threatened to jail after saying he welcomed their response to the coronavirus crisis.
Duterte, who has had an antagonistic relationship with the country's commercial elite, said during a televised address that he was prepared to talk with owners of conglomerates Ayala Corp and Metro Pacific Investments. Their high-stakes dispute with the president had led to state contracts being reviewed and shares being sold off.
"To the Ayalas and to Pangilinan, I apologize for the hurting words," Duterte said, referring to Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala and Fernando Zobel de Ayala, the chairman and president of Ayala, and to Manuel Pangilinan, the Metro Pacific chairman.
"The COVID humbled me. With the kind of response that you gave, showed to the public, it's a humbling experience also for me," he said, thanking big businesses for helping the government's response to the COVID-19 crisis through donations.
The two groups have donated medical equipment such as masks and test kits and helped set up quarantine facilities.
Shares of the companies rose sharply on Tuesday after Duterte's olive branch, with Metro Pacific surging nearly 13.5 percent. Ayala went up 14.7 percent while its water unit Manila Water climbed nearly 12 percent, outperforming Manila's benchmark index, which rose 1.8 percent during the morning.
On Twitter, Pangilinan thanked Duterte "for his sincerity and kindness." "I wish to assure him that our group is fully committed to being a partner of the government in addressing the heart-breaking moments of COVID-19 on our people," he said.
The Ayala brothers put out a statement thanking Duterte.
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