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Corporate social responsibility

- Rey Gamboa () - October 28, 2006 - 12:00am
Lately, we have seen the growing response of big corporations towards the challenges posed by societal ills. In our SPMJ (Society of Philippine Motoring Journalists) ambitious program to bring awareness and motoring education to school level, Ford Group Philippines as well as the Toyota Motor Philippines have responded magnanimously to the project, and in so doing, have been continuously creating awareness among our young people on how to act as responsible motorists. Inculcating this in young minds will result to responsible adults, and in a sector where motoring journalists can make a difference, we are happy to contribute our miniscule share in nation building.

I know for a fact that Petron, through the Petron Foundation, has also been a sincere and dedicated advocate of corporate social responsibility. But my knowledge of the scope of their efforts at addressing social concerns has been limited to my exposure to only a few of their projects. For instance, they are committed to boosting the lot of young, unknown artists and have been holding yearly exhibits of the shows of these relative unknowns, inviting big names in business to come see the works of their protégés.

Recently, however, one of the beneficiaries of Petron’s generosity responded to what they perceived as totally undeserved pillory of Petron after the unfortunate "Guimaras incident." Ms. Margarita L. Delgado, president of Sa Aklat Sisikat Foundation, and Ms. Lizzie Zobel, vice president of the same foundation, wrote to the editorial board of one of the leading dailies (not the Star) to express their sentiments. In their letter (which was passed on to me by a friend who shared their sentiments and who also requested me to write about it in the spirit of fair and balance journalism), both Ms. Delgado and Ms. Zobel, "felt obligated to write (to you today), disheartened and disappointed by the irresponsible reporting on Petron’s response to the Guimaras oil spill."

They further added that "In our involvement with the Sa Aklat Sisikat Foundation, associate and partner of the Petron Foundation, we have been front line witnesses to Petron’s extraordinary and sincere engagement in nation building for many years. Just to clarify, neither has it been suggested to us nor is Petron aware that we are writing to you; we do so in our personal capacity to correct a wronged record to which we have been witnesses."

I have not seen the 2005 Corporate Social Responsibility Report of the Petron Foundation but apparently, this report chronicles the corporation’s efforts at improving the lot of the marginal and the disabled. The report is written through the eyes of Petron’s beneficiaries. An efficient and great enabler, the company has sent thousands of children to elementary school, children who would have roamed the streets at night scrounging for food and learning the dark trades of the alleys. They have also enabled high school students, giving them basic entrepreneurial skills. The foundation believes that education is the answer to many of society’s problems, and has in fact built high-quality school buildings. Corollary to this, they have provided world-class training for public school teachers and effectively raised the bar for our public school system. And, perhaps more importantly, they shared the Sa Aklat Sisikat Foundation’s goal of enabling young school children by nurturing in them the love of reading. Sadly, this has all but vanished among our young public school children who have more basic problems, I guess, than to appreciate the joys of reading. Having worked at nurturing this is a great achievement for the Sa Aklat Sisikat Foundation, and they are happy to report that the Petron Foundation has been there for them from the start, and has continually been at their side in this laudable effort.

Ms. Delgado and Ms. Zobel pointed out also Petron’s immediate responses to natural disasters by helping the communities directly affected by these calamities, the company’s efforts at helping low-income families through livelihoods, and their efforts at preserving coastlines and watersheds. It is quite ironic that this company, having cast a concerned eye on our coastlines and having contributed much to its preservation should now see itself in the eye of the storm for precisely a cause they have been fighting for.

The leaders of the Sa Aklat Sisikat Foundation seem to know more about the Petron Foundation’s many projects than you and me. Apparently, Petron Foundation is among the movers of the League of Corporate Foundations and the Philippine Business for Social Progress. These organizations, composed of socially responsive corporations, have for its members some of the country’s top business leaders who continuously plan long-term strategies for sustained growth. Hopefully, more and more corporations join their ranks.

The two lady executives of the SAS Foundation cited the untiring efforts of Petron Chair Khalid Al-Faddagh, president Nic Alcantara, and Malu Emi, Petron Foundation’s executive director for steering the foundation through these efforts and encouraging their employees to think in the same vein. It is heartening to note that as much as 80 percent of Petron’s employees participate in their CSR projects.

As to Petron’s response to the Guimaras incident, Ms. Zobel and Ms. Delgado say that Malu and her staff at Petron Foundation have practically relocated to Guimaras in their untiring efforts to restore the island’s natural beauty. Nic and the other executives have also made several trips to the island, conferring regularly with the local officials on how best to go about the rehabilitation program for Guimaras.

They have launched the Ligtas Guimaras program and have engaged the help of international professionals in seeing the fruition of this project. They have also engaged the help of several private and government entities in their clean-up efforts, and their cash-for-work program has been very effective, not only in providing livelihood for the coastal folks but has turned it around to benefit the island’s ecological survival as well. The Foundation’s efforts at helping out the Guimaras people, their medical missions, relief good distribution, long and short-term rehabilitation plans for the island, etc., are chronicled at www.ligtasguimaras.com.ph. It would do us well to check out this website as the memories of Guimaras have somehow faded, lost in all the political issues that have lately been hogging the headlines.
Cebuano Delights
My wife Babes flew to Cebu recently for another one of her reunions with her high school and college chums. First, let me point out that, flying to and from Cebu, I was happily informed that she no longer experienced those 4-5 hour delays. Cebu Pacific wrote and said that, after October 15, they promise that these delays would be a thing of the past. They kept that promise, I’m happy to note.

As in all vacations, food figures in heavily in all the get-togethers with her friends like Josie Sala, Lucy Miller, Ninette Garcia, Susan Torres, Diana Ledesma, Tonette Panares, Sonia Palugod and the rest of her gang. Babes told me that all these ladies hosted her and Jean Tomassi Zubieta from Arizona to countless lunches, meriendas and dinners, and they were eating every two hours.

Anyway, one of the interesting foodie news she shared was that some innovative lechon provider in Cebu now serves this delectable item in a novel way — they put two whole chickens into the pig’s cavernous stomach, together with all the herbs and spices that go with a traditional Cebu lechon, and these roast and cook slowly in the juice of the roasting lechon. The result is mouth-watering lechon manok, in addition to the already mouth-watering Cebu lechon that we know of. Now when is this coming to Manila? Or is it here already?

Mabuhay
!!! Be proud to be a Filipino.

For comments: (e-mail) businessleisure-star@stv.com.ph

CEBU CEBU PACIFIC EFFORTS FOUNDATION GUIMARAS MS. ZOBEL PETRON PETRON FOUNDATION SA AKLAT SISIKAT FOUNDATION SCHOOL
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