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Lifestyle Business

What better use and motive for business profits than philanthropy?

BULL MARKET, BULL SHEET - Wilson Lee Flores - The Philippine Star

What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal. —Albert Pike

What is a better motivation and use for business profits than to donate part of them to philanthropy?  We can only eat three or five meals a day at most, and even if our house has many bedrooms, we can only sleep on one bed in one room per night.

Among the capitalists I admire the most are Singapore philanthropist Tan Kah Kee, who donated Xiamen University in south China in 1921 and much of his fortune to education; he was also an activist tycoon.  He donated most of his wealth to charities long before Warren Buffett and Bill Gates started a similar trend in the West.

The recent outpouring of civic efforts and donations to typhoon Yolanda victims also saw business people’s unprecedented philanthropy in the Philippines. One of the most active sectors is the ethnic Chinese business community.

Henry Sy, Lucio Tan, George S.K. Ty, Andrew Tan donate

SM Group, led by founder Henry Sy’s family, and Lucio Tan’s Philip Morris Fortune Tobacco Corp. have each donated P100 million. Both Sy and Tan are legendary “rags-to-riches” tycoons who lead simple lifestyles devoid of luxuries, yet they have consistently donated to charities through the decades. For them, business success is not about the accumulation of money, but more about the challenges of success and the passion to be able to create enterprises and jobs, with each new commercial and civic project being an exciting adventure.

Years ago Henry Sy Sr. invited me to tour his elegant yet simple newly acquired house in Makati and he half-jokingly recounted that his daughter, BDO chairperson Teresita “Tessie” Sy Coson, took his checkbook to pay for that home purchase, after his having lived for decades in a condominium unit.

Lucio Tan also leads a simple lifestyle. He is often seen using a second-hand Mercedes-Benz and used to ride economy-class airline seats before he became chairman of Philippine Airlines (now managed by San Miguel Corp. boss Ramon S. Ang).

The Federation of Filipino Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Inc. (FFCCCII), led by chairman emeritus Lucio Tan, president Alfonso Siy, executive vice president Angel Ngu and secretary general Fernando Gan has already raised P60 million in private donations as of Nov. 21, with an eventual projection of P100 million to be raised in cooperation with six other organizations. Ngu said that the Federation is in contact with Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, who is in charge of much of the logistics operation for the business community’s donations.

Banker George S.K. Ty has led Metrobank Group, Toyota Motor Philippines, and Toyota Financial Services Philippines to donate P50 million to aid the ongoing relief operations for families affected by super typhoon Yolanda. Another philanthropic arm helping in relief efforts is GT-Metro Foundation Inc. For decades, George Ty has been a patron of the arts and culture and has donated a lot to medical, educational and other civic causes.

Self-made tycoon Andrew Tan of Megaworld, Resorts World Philippines and McDonald’s Philippines also donated P50 million through the Philippine Red Cross, ABS-CBN Foundation and the United Nations Children’s Fund.

The local Chinese community has diverse religious beliefs, from Catholic and Protestant to Taoist and Buddhist faiths. One of the most dynamic segments in philanthropy is the Buddhist group called the Tzu Chi Foundation, which recently teamed up with the Yuyitung family’s 94-year-old Chinese Commercial News or Siong-po to raise donations totalling P47 million to help the typhoon Yolanda victims. Philippine STAR reader Robert Young Jr. told this writer: “At the outset, the Tzu Chi Foundation Philippines Chapter medical team has treated over a thousand patients in Tacloban City. They also hire typhoon victims to clear the street of debris.”

Solomon Yuyitung told the STAR: “These donations of P47 million came from many members of the Filipino-Chinese community from all walks of life, from small traders, entrepreneurs to even professionals and top business people, some of whom even refused to put down their names for our receipts and for publication.”

The Association of Young Filipino Chinese Entrepreneurs (formerly known as the Anvil Business Club) led by chairman Jeffrey Ng and president Jovenson Ong also donated cash and relief goods for the typhoon victims.

A unique social enterprise venture to aid future disaster relief

One unique civic endeavour from the business community is now being spearheaded by marketing guru and book author Josiah L. Go starting Nov. 19, which he undertook using mobile phone text messages to friends and also via Facebook. He said,  “I’d like to start a sustainable social enterprise where 100 percent of the profit will go to future disaster victims (not that I wish there would be), who are willing to invest without dividends P50,000 minimum for a start with top investors sitting on the board. I am taking inventory but will start early 2014.”

I decided to donate all my fees from three recent speaking engagements at AXA Philippines life insurance firm last Nov. 11 in Makati, Nov. 13 in Baguio City and Nov. 18 in Cebu City to Go’s sustainable social enterprise project.

It is not true that you have to be a tycoon in order to donate, because you can give according to your own capacity and resources. Donations are not measured by size but by our idealism.

If not for typhoon Yolanda, I would not have written this. Last year, I heard that the Tacloban Filipino Chinese Chamber of Commerce in Leyte province wanted to help the people of Limasawa island construct a public school building and their officers were looking for donors. Limasawa is a poor sixth-class municipality in southern Leyte where the first Catholic mass was held 492 years ago in 1521. Much earlier in 1225, the Chinese merchant Chau Ju Kuo described the local population of “Mazaua” as friendly and congenial to trade relations.

Although I am not a tycoon and have no personal connection to Leyte, last year I volunteered to donate the money needed for this public school project, which I coursed through my former Ateneo de Manila University classmate Carlos Lim Legaspi who is with the secretariat of the Federation of Filipino Chinese Chambers of Commerce & Industry, Inc. (FFCCCII). Early this year I also donated to another public school.

Why? As a kid, I promised my late mother that I would someday try to be rich so that I could donate 100 schools in honor of her and our late father.

Due to the sheer difficulty of shipping construction supplies from Leyte’s main island to Limasawa and the lack of electricity there, the construction was delayed and super typhoon Yolanda later hit the region.

I wonder what happened to the people of Limasawa in southern Leyte? Now my concern is also how the SME entrepreneurs of the Tacloban Filipino Chinese Chamber of Commerce can rebuild their businesses, homes and lives, so that they can help construct a new public school for the people of Limasawa.

More than just immediate and decisive relief efforts to save typhoon Yolanda victims, let us think long-term and help the economic reconstruction of the Visayan areas hard-hit by the typhoon, which have also been economically neglected for generations by our many Manila-centric politicians.

Let us not only build ports, municipal halls and churches but also prioritize public schools and help public school teachers. I believe education is the best investment for anti-poverty alleviation and promoting true social justice.

* * *

Thanks for your feedback! E-mail [email protected]. or follow WilsonLeeFlores on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and http://willsoonflourish.blogspot.com/.

BUSINESS

CHINESE

DONATED

HENRY SY

LEYTE

LIMASAWA

LUCIO TAN

TYPHOON

YOLANDA

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