Zobels talk politics, motorcycles with CNN

Posted at 04/30/2012 7:26 PM | Updated as of 05/03/2012 12:15 PM

MANILA, Philippines (CORRECTED) - Jaime Augusto and Fernando Zobel de Ayala, the brothers who run the country's oldest conglomerate Ayala Corp., recently gave a rare interview with CNN's Talk Asia.

In the 30-minute interview aired over the weekend, the Zobels talked to CNN correspondent Andrew Stevens about corruption in the Philippines, why they love traveling by motorcyle, and why they're not interested in entering politics.

Asked about the persistent problem of corruption in the Philippines, Jaime Augusto gave high praise for the government's anti-corruption campaign, saying President Benigno Aquino and his Cabinet have set a new standard for governance.

"There has never been as much rigor and seriousness on the part of this government in addressing the corruption issue as we have seen under the term of this President... I think we have a current president and his Cabinet who basically said we have to turn a new corner on the governance front and I think everything that they have done up to now is basically setting a whole new bar, a whole new standard and they are basically walking the talk," Jaime Augusto, Ayala Corp. chairman and CEO, said.

Fernando, chief operating officer and president of Ayala Corp., said the campaign against corruption will take time, but there are improvements.

"We have not experienced some of problems that people claim they might have experienced. Overall, you do see corruption in many of the countries in Asia and throughout the world, and you want to see a government that leads by example and works on improving the situation. It's hard to eliminate corruption completely in any country but you want to see improvement. Certainly, this government is showing that it will go after corruption and it will improve that particular condition in the country," Fernando said.

Adventure

Jaime Augusto and Fernando are both avid motorcylists and are known to go on motorcycle trips around the Philippines and abroad. The brothers say they love the "adventure" of traveling by motorcycle.

"We like being able to take the beaten path and go discover countries and locations. It's quite extraordinary. We've had the chance to see the Philippines through eyes that most people have not seen and a lot of that is thanks to our ability to get on two wheels and move around," Jaime Augusto said.

The Zobels backpacked around the Philippines extensively when they were young, which allowed them to discover areas which they later developed.

"We actually discovered many areas which we then developed from a real estate point of view because we enjoyed them so much when we were young," Jaime Augusto added.

No to politics

The Zobels are well-known in the business circles, but have never dabbled in politics. Jaime Augusto said the family has never been interested in politics.

"We are dedicated to public service in other ways. Fernando and I are both involved in the non-profit sector. I like to think we've been committed to the broader social development goals of the country through our engagement in civil society, non-profits and many other areas, aside from just business engagement. I think there's a lot that one can do for a country beyond the realm of politics," he said.

Founded 178 years ago, Ayala Corp. has continued to thrive amid wars, financial crises and political upheavals in the Philippines.

Jaime Augusto believes the company's ability to adapt to change is part of the secret to its longevity.

"More than anything the company has sought to align itself to the national goals of the country ever since its founding in 1834, and that's made us intrinsically part of the fabric of the nation. We have not remained static, adjusted to the changing times. Change is not something that Fernando and I fear... We have kept an eye on the changing times, the economy, technology, partnerships and try to adjust to the changing times, and be relevant to the needs of the changing times," he said.