By ANTONIO LOPEZ
No tycoon has experienced more personal and business losses than Ramon S. Ang, the vice chairman, president and chief operating officer of the San Miguel Corp.
RSA’s son died, in April 2020, the result of gunshot wound from apparent suicide. His long-time friend and business partner, Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco Jr., the SMC chairman, succumbed to heart attack June 16, 2020, six days after his 85th birthday this year, after lingering illnesses.
San Miguel’s profits and revenues have also been pummeled by the pandemic, although in the third quarter they began to rebound.
Yet, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdowns intended to contain it but which instead collapsed the economy to unprecedented depths, no Filipino has exhibited more exemplary humanity than RSA. Examples:
He ramped up production of nutribuns—free bread for distribution thru SMC’s hundreds of Petron stations, to poor communities rendered most vulnerable by the pandemic. “These are difficult times for all of us,” RSA admits, “even businesses, big and small, including San Miguel, are not spared of the economic impact of COVID-19.” “Many families are struggling to cope. What more the most disadvantaged among us—those who rely on daily paid work, or those who have no means of income at all?” he asks.
SMC also tied up with the Department of Agriculture to help farmers bring their produce from farm to target markets amid the disruption in transportation and supply chains because of the pandemic. At the company’s Better World Diliman, its third Better World Community Center, farmers can bring their excess fresh produce, bought by SMC at higher than farm gate prices, for retail.
The company also focused on locally stranded individuals (LSIs), workers who could not go to the provinces for lack of transportation and for not being allowed to travel because of the pandemic. They are provided free meals and financial assistance daily at SMC’s Better World Tondo. Some 300 are fed daily.
The company also opened Better World EDSA as a major COVID testing lab to help the country expand its testing goals and thus ensure a safer restart of the economy by regularly testing its some 70,000 employees and ancillary workers under SMC’s nationwide network. San Miguel sales contribute 5.9% of the annual national economic output or GDP.
Frontliners—members of the medical community who are the forefront of combatting the virus – are extended fuel subsidy and toll-free privilege at San Miguel’s tollways, South Luzon Expressway, the Skyway system, NAIA Expressway, and the Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway—the most extensive private highway system in the country. The Libreng Sakay programs of the Department of Transportation and the Metro Manila Development Authority receive free fuel from Petron.
SMC has also donated PCR testing machines, PCR test kits, personal protective equipment, high-flow nasal cannula and swabbing booths to government and private hospitals and LGUs nationwide.
Relatedly, the company repurposed its liquor manufacturing facilities to produce alcohol for distribution free to hospitals, vital agencies, and institutions.
Near camp hospitals nationwide, SMC constructed 10 isolation facilities with 150-bed capacity.
P13 billion for pandemic containment
Such efforts have cost SMC more than P13 billion, the largest spending for pandemic containment by any company.
SMC’s total COVID-19 response contributions, as of early August 2020, included P516 million in food donations, P500 million for medical equipment, P97.1 million in alcohol disinfectant, P94.7 million in free toll for medical frontliners, P9.5 million in free fuel for government’s Libreng Sakay program for medical workers, P7 million for temporary quarantine facilities, and P2.9 million for free meals to locally-stranded individuals.
The company also spent P8.77 billion to pay taxes, concession and contractual fees to government in advance to make funds available for COVID-19 response during the ECQ. It also spent P3.09 billion for continuous and full compensation of employees and third-party providers.
Apart from these, the company has launched many initiatives to help the agricultural industry.
As of Sept. 30, 2020, it had bought over 436 million kilos of corn to help local farmers. It also partnered with the Department of Agriculture to put up Kadiwa ni Ani at Kita stores at Petron stations to enable farmers to sell their fresh produce to more consumers.
SMC invests heavily in CSR
SMC invests heavily in corporate social responsibility (CSR) projects and sustainability.
The amounts involved are not mere stunts. SMC spent P2.1 billion to build 8,000 homes for typhoon victims of Mindanao. It is spending P1 billion just to dredge the Tullahan River in Malabon.
San Miguel phased out its profitable plastic-bottled water business so as not to contribute to pollution. What people call global warming. Or climate change.
Relatedly, the company has pledged to cut water use by half, by 2025. Achievement is two years ahead of schedule. In 2018, SMC saved 8.84 million cubic meters of water—enough to supply nearly 300,000 homes. Additionally, San Miguel has planted one million trees.
To me, San Miguel’s best and biggest doing-good business is how it prices its products and services very reasonably.
SanMig beer is a monopoly product. It has more than 90% of the market. Yet, SanMig is one of the cheapest quality beers you can drink anywhere in this world.
SMC is the biggest power producer in Luzon, with 4,197 megawatts generating capacity. Yet, it prices its electricity at less than P3 per kwh, one-fourth the price of the biggest retailer on the island.
San Miguel plans to produce 1,200 megawatts of renewable energy, making it the biggest producer of renewable energy soon.
San Miguel also will be the biggest producer of water in Luzon. Ang promises to deliver to households the cheapest, cleanest potable water there is. For a start, the company will provide cheap water 24/7 to 24 water districts of Bulacan. It wants to produce water up to 3,800 million liters a day (MLD) at a cost of P35 billion.
San Miguel is the biggest producer of foods in the Philippines, processed foods like chicken, hotdogs, spam. Magnolia fresh chickens are at least 10% cheaper than its rivals in supermarkets. Yet, the quality of Magnolia chickens is far different from other chickens. There is no antibiotic residue, which could be harmful to one’s health.
SMC to help rice farmers
SMC is moving into the rice business in a big way to bring down its cost. Rice is 15% of the consumer basket.
You get quality rice—cheap. Ang promises to plough back rice profits by supporting farmers, with seedlings, technical help, even money.
Infrastructure is a mind-boggling business. San Miguel is No. 1, being the owner or operator of 55% of tollroads, mainly the highways south and north of Manila and beyond.
SMC’s infra projects include the multi-level 51-km South Luzon Expressway, from Paco, in Manila, to Santo Tomas in Batangas. SLEX connects the business districts of Manila and Makati to the heartland of the Philippines’ industrial hub, booming Calabarzon.
SLEX is now linked by a connector road from Magallanes Exit in Makati to Balintawak, at the entrance to the North Luzon Expressway and TPLEX.
With Skyway 3, travel from SLEX to NLEX takes 20 minutes, from three hours previously. Magallanes to Balintawak is a breezy 15-min drive, Balintawak to NAIA only 15 minutes, and Valenzuela to Makati just 10 minutes.
In mid-July this year, SMC delivered the last section of the Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEX) to Rosario, La Union, officially opening the entire stretch of the TPLEX to motorists.
In addition to Skyway 3, SMC will complete the northbound section of the Skyway Extension—which provides additional lanes and connects the South Luzon Expressway to Skyway near Susanna Heights and the Muntinlupa-Cavite Expressway—by December this year.
Ang has vowed to push through with all its major infrastructure projects despite the economic slowdown due to the pandemic, in order to generate jobs and help the economy recover.
P740-billion New Manila International Airport
SMC’s P740-billion Manila International Airport project in Bulacan is the largest single-item investment in Philippine history. It will break ground by end of 2020. Seen as a game-changer for the Philippine economy, the Aerotropolis will generate over a million direct and indirect jobs and, once completed, create up to 30 million tourism jobs nationwide.
SLEX will also be extended by 61 kms, from Santo Tomas, Batangas (and Calamba, Laguna) to Lucena City in Quezon province.
San Miguel has completed the 88.5-km Tarlac Pangasinan La Union Expressway (TPLEX), from Tarlac to Rosario, La Union. Even then says Ang, “we are already gearing up for extension, from Rosario to San Juan, La Union.” In effect, San Miguel has connected both ends of Luzon.
But the biggest boon is yet to come—a P740-billion San Miguel Airport in Bulacan. It will have four runways, contribute at least P1.8 trillion to GDP, and employ up to 30 million directly and indirectly, nationwide.
Asia CEO Award
For his visionary leadership, significant and long-term contributions to the country, and unprecedented response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Asia CEO Awards body has conferred on RSA the prestigious Lifetime Contributor Award for the private sector.
Asia CEO notes that under Ang’s leadership, “SMC has emerged as the country’s top and most consistent private sector partner against the pandemic.”
“With its considerable resources, and with the help of employees, volunteers, and its partner non-profit organizations and charitable institutions, SMC initiated numerous projects to help disadvantaged sectors and communities, medical front liners, local governments, and even the national government, better cope with the impacts of COVID-19,” Asia CEO Awards said.
SMC’s total COVID-19 response has reached P13.187 billion. This includes the largest-ever food donation drive in the country, massive donations of disinfectant alcohol from its reconfigured liquor plants; life-saving medical equipment and supplies such as RT-PCR machines and test kits, which have raised the Philippines’ overall testing capacity.
The award-giving body first cited RSA’s contributions to the country, through his achievements leading SMC.
“His success in business is not only found in the Philippines but also globally. His company is instrumental in the various crucial infrastructure projects that (will) help our country not just recover but also leads us to soar even higher in terms of creating jobs, stimulating economic activities,” the board of judges said.
“Ramon Ang’s company is instrumental in the various crucial infrastructure projects that help our country not just to recover but also leads us to soar even higher in terms of creating jobs, stimulating economic activities, creating a good public image, and building trustworthy reputations. He is not only concerned about growing his businesses but is also known to have a good heart in helping our countrymen without expecting anything in return,” said environmental planner Felino Palafox Jr., the Philippines’ No. 1 architect.
Since the lifting of strict quarantine restrictions starting mid-May to June, Ang has vowed that SMC would continue all its major investments—despite the economic downturn and the quarantine’s overall impact on SMC’s business performance.
Since then, work on its major infrastructure projects such as the Skyway Extension, Skyway 3 project, and MRT-7 project have continued at an accelerated pace.
In July, SMC fully delivered the entire stretch of the Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEX). TPLEX opens sprawling hinterlands of northern Luzon for commercial, industrial, residential and tourism development and completes the integration of western north Luzon (particularly its cities like Dagupan, Baguio, San Fernando, Vigan, and Laoag) to Subic, Clark, the vast plains of Central Luzon and further south to Manila. Indeed, Manila to Baguio is now just an easy drive of less than three hours (from up to six hours before).
SMC also seeks to build the SLEX TR-5 project from Quezon province all the way to Matnog, Sorsogon, and the Pasig River Expressway, an elevated expressway along the banks of the Pasig river, including its dredging and rehabilitation.
Massive environmental protection projects
Asia CEO Awards is pleased with SMC’s continued major environmental programs, such as its P1-billion initiative to dredge and clean the Tullahan-Tinajeros River system, and a separate project to plant 190,000 mangroves all over Bulacan and Central Luzon. These projects kick-off a massive flood mitigation program the company is undertaking.
The award-giving body also put emphasis on Ang’s many philanthropic initiatives.
“He is not only concerned about growing his businesses but is also known to have a good heart in helping our countrymen without expecting anything in return,” the judges said. “He is one of the first to act swiftly to convert one of his businesses in response to the crisis in medical supplies during the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).”
Asia CEO Awards notes that SMC has a new initiative to distribute energy and nutrient-packed nutribuns to the poorest communities in Metro Manila, to further help address hunger during the pandemic.
The award-giving body also cited the recent creation of RSA Foundation, whose first project will be to build a state-of-the-art hospital specializing in infectious disease research.
Says Ang to his colleagues in business: “My humble message for all of you is to stay strong and stay committed to helping out and being a force for positive change in your communities, in your industries, to your employees.”
“We have the best minds, the most capable business leaders in the Philippines. Just imagine the collective experience and resources…Together, we can all do so much,” he says.