"All despite his personal and business losses"
In recent years, 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 Corporation.
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, six days after his 85th birthday this year, after lingering illnesses.
San Miguel’s profits and revenues have also been pummeled by the pandemic.
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 through 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?”
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 percent 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, using a P500-million fund.
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.
Such efforts have cost SMC easily P11 billion, the largest spending for pandemic containment by any company.
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 percent 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. Ramon 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, luncheon meat. Magnolia fresh chickens are at least 10 percent 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 is moving into the rice business in a big way to bring down its cost. Rice is 15 percent 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 percent of toll roads, mainly the highways south and north of Manila and beyond.
They 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 will be connected by a connector road from Magallanes Exit in Makati to Balintawak, at the entrance to the North Luzon Expressway and TPLEX. 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 $14-billion San Miguel Airport in Bulacan. It will have four runways, contribute at least P1 trillion to GDP, and employ up to 40 million directly and indirectly, assuming 20 million arrivals and each arrival attended to by two Filipinos.