When business and environment truly meet
HIDDEN AGENDA - Mary Ann LL. Reyes (The Philippine Star) - October 17, 2020 - 12:00am

Just recently, San Miguel Corp. president and chief operating officer Ramon S. Ang was given the prestigious Lifetime Contributor Award for the private sector at the 2020 Asia CEO Awards, touted to be the largest business award in the country and in Asia, for his visionary leadership, significant contributions to the country, and unprecedented response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the award-giving body, RSA’s success in business is not only found in the Philippines, but also globally and that his company is instrumental in the various crucial infrastructure projects “that will help the country not just to recover, but also leads us to soar even higher in terms of creating jobs, stimulating economic activities.”

As to why SMC spends and gives away so much to help with the pandemic when businesses and the economy are down, RSA said that since the crisis is unprecedented, their response should also be unprecedented. “What other goal is more worthwhile than helping our country and making it better? What kind of Filipinos would we be if we do not show malasakit towards each other in time of great need,” he said.

He added that all the work that the private sector has done to grow business and build industries would be nothing if the people and the economy fail.

RSA vowed that SMC would continue all its major investments despite the economic downturn and the quarantine’s overall impact on the company’s business performance.

In fact, just a few days ago, SMC announced that the P37.4-billion 17.93-kilometer Skyway Stage 3 project, a much-awaited infrastructure project that will greatly help ease traffic congestion along EDSA, has already been completed ahead of its Oct. 31 target and that Skyway 2 in Buendia is now officially extended all the way to the North Luzon Expressway.

According to RSA, they are just waiting for the weather to improve to make sure that the asphalt will cure properly, as well as a few more finishing touches before it is opened to the public soon. The project will cut travel from the South Luzon Expressway to NLEX from three hours to 20 minutes.

And inspite of the crisis, SMC has not forgotten to take care of a very important concern, something that has seemingly taken a back seat for many in the private sector – the environment.

SMC continues to make sure that its projects are always accompanied by a major environmental initiative, not merely as an add-on to give the project some green cred, but as an actual part of the development that will enhance and make it more sustainable and beneficial to people around it.

Take the case of the P740-billion Manila International Airport in Bulacan, which is considered as the largest single-item investment in Philippine history and a game-changer for the country, given its four parallel runways, modern facilities, and connectivity to major expressways and railways.

SMC officials said the project would be a game-changer for the environment and for the people of Bulacan as it would rid the province and Central Luzon of flooding once and for all.

RSA has already dispatched a whopping P1 billion to start the dredging and deepening of the entire 27-kilometer stretch of the long-dead Tullahan-Tinejeros River system to allow flood waters to flow back into the Manila Bay. Today on a daily basis, around 600 tons of garbage are being taken out from the Tullahan.

The company has also commissioned a hydrology study to prepare for the dredging of two more major river systems in Bulacan – the Marilao-Meycauayan-Obando river system and the Malolos stream. In addition, SMC has started planting 190,000 mangroves all over Bulacan and Central Luzon to further protect against tidal flooding.

To ensure the mangroves grow big and strong and provide locals with extra livelihood, the company will seed 100,000 crabs monthly in the pilot mangrove site in Hagonoy, Bulacan.

All these should put to rest concerns earlier raised by some that the airport project might exacerbate the flooding problem in Bulacan.

SMC and RSA’s resolve to help the environment was shown as early as 2017 when he announced that the company was fully exiting its growing plastic bottled water business to lessen its environmental footprint, the first time that a business was discontinued to support the company’s sustainable goals. Then not long after, he set a very ambitious water goal for all San Miguel Group companies, which is to reduce domestic and utility water use by 50 percent by 2025.

Just a few weeks ago, the group proposed another simple, but sustainable project to the government – the P95.4-billion 19.4-km Pasig River Expressway which will be a six-lane elevated expressway along the river banks and which will reduce travel time from Manila to Rizal to just 15 minutes.

According to RSA, PAREX will be a solution within a solution as it aims not only to improve traffic in Metro Manila, but also the flow of water along the Pasig River, which has to be dredged and cleared of debris and garbage. SMC will take up the cudgels of cleaning and hopefully, reviving and bringing back the river’s old glory.

Environmental economists, as opposed to plain activist-environmentalists who try to find fault in everything just to stay relevant, will appreciate a project like the Bulacan airport and PAREX, which both have huge economic benefits that the country and its people badly need, especially at this time.

The two projects would have a positive impact on the environment, providing simple and sustainable solutions to the seemingly insurmountable problem of flooding and river pollution.

 

 

For comments, e-mail at mareyes@philstarmedia.com

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