President Rodrigo Duterte has apologized to the Zobel brothers of Ayala Corp. and businessman Manuel Pangilinan for his “hurtful words” in the past, after the businessmen extended help to the government amid the Covid-19 outbreak.

Yung masasakit ko na salita sa Ayala, Pangilinan, I apologize… I hope you find it in your heart to forgive me. If you do not, I will undercut you and go directly to God,” Duterte said in an address televised shortly before midnight on Tuesday.

Ayala Corp., one of the country’s oldest conglomerates, is led by brothers Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, chairman and chief executive officer, and Fernando Zobel de Ayala, president and chief operating officer.

Pangilinan is chairman of the board, president and CEO of PLDT, the country’s top telco.

Duterte thanked businessmen for “providing the necessities of the moment” and said he was open to meeting them.

“Naubos na po pagkasuplado ko dahil sa Covid. The Covid humbled me.”

Duterte in December lashed out at water companies led by the Zobels and Pangilinan over the government’s defeat before an international arbitration dispute involving supposedly lopsided concession contracts.

This forced the water concessionaires, Manila Water Co. and Maynilad Water Services Inc., to waive nearly P11 billion in arbitration awards they had sought from the government.

Manila Water also suddenly took in a new partner, multinational ports operator Enrique Razon.

READ: Palace: Duterte outraged over arbitration defeat vs Ayala’s Manila Water
READ: Water concessionaires cave in to Duterte in arbitration dispute

Ayala-led Manila Water and Panglinan’s Maynilad also did not build water treatment facilities despite collecting money for years for such purpose, Duterte claimed in December.

“Walang water treatment mga animal kayo. Mag-usap tayo ng — ‘pag hindi… Tag-isang sampal kayo sa akin. Maniwala kayo. Pat — patikim ko sa inyo. Pakita ko sa Pilipino paano mag-sampal ng mga milyonaryo, bilyonaryo. L**** kayo,” he said.

(There was no water treatment, you animals. Let’s talk — if not, I will slap each of you. Believe me. I will let you taste it. I will show Filipinos how to slap millionaires, billionaires.)

In February, Razon barged into the water sector, acquiring a 25-percent stake in the Ayala Corp.-led Manila Water for P10.7 billion. (