Two years into the pandemic, it appears we’ve finally turned the corner. I say this not with lesser regard for the dangers COVID-19 variants still pose, but with confidence in the collective efforts of government, the medical sector, businesses, and ordinary Filipinos to bring us to where we are today.
Much has been said about San Miguel Corporation’s direct and large-scale response to the pandemic. I believe that in working to help our government and medical sector to support the most urgent needs of disadvantaged groups, we also became a stronger company.
Amid the crisis, our purpose has remained steadfast. In fact, we’ve often found ourselves making decisions that were “good for all,” particularly when plans and strategies could only take us so far, given the many extraordinary challenges we faced.
Do we continue investing in prospectively growth-building projects? Do we continue to deliver health care and support to vulnerable groups, even when we could have just chosen to preserve our bottom line? Do we take on more risks and delay returns to help solve some of our country’s problems now, when we could hedge our bets for when things get better?
Our answer to these questions has been an unequivocal “yes.” For us, it is about prioritizing the welfare of many over our own immediate interests, because these choices help build a more inclusive and resilient future where all of us, San Miguel included, will thrive and grow.
The pandemic has transformed how we see our role in the larger economy and society. Today, we know that we need to adopt a broader outlook and new ways of doing business to meet the challenges of the post-pandemic Philippines we are helping to build.
Among the pressing changes that have taken shape both in local and global business in the last two years is the call for stronger action and accountability on climate issues. Our country itself has taken decisive action to mitigate its impacts, such as imposing a moratorium on new coal power projects and committing to slash greenhouse gas emissions by 75% by 2030.
At the same time, improving the country’s supply of modern, reliable energy and attaining energy security have become all the more crucial as our recovery widens and our economy and population expand.
Energy is one area where we stand to make a major contribution. Our energy strategy aims to ensure that current and future demand is met, even as we minimize dependence on coal, and help bring about the country’s transition to cleaner fuels and renewable power.
Unlocking renewable power’s full potential
An important step to making renewable energy more widely available throughout the country is battery energy storage, which will help address its intermittent nature as a power source.
Thus far, 21 of the 31 Battery Energy Storage System (BESS) facilities we are building throughout the Philippines are now substantially complete. We are proud to be the first in the country to use this technology, and to have the highest battery capacity to date. By the end of 2023, we expect to complete all 31 BESS facilities, which will improve power quality and distribution, especially in regions currently off-grid.
Throughout our 131-year history, we in San Miguel have always been proud of the fact that we have led best practices in circular economy, environmental protection, pollution mitigation, water sustainability, community development as well as corporate governance.
We know it will take far more to solve our country’s complex, multi-generational problems. But in areas where we can, we have been implementing social protection programs to alleviate these conditions.
However, with our businesses so much a part of everyday Philippine life, and with the new and emerging risks our country faces, more is expected of us when it comes to tackling economic, environmental, social, and governance issues. Our resolve to continue to grow means we can’t remain set in our ways or stay mired in old realities when faced with global challenges.
Toward greater sustainability
At the beginning of this year, we engaged the services of an international consultant, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), and initiated a Group-wide effort to review each of our businesses and draw up a phased roadmap toward even greater sustainability.
Given this, sustainability will play an even bigger role in the future of our businesses. Actions to ensure our businesses will continue to serve Filipinos amid present and future internal and external threats will be prioritized. Major steps to configure our operations to be more responsible and responsive to the needs not just of consumers, but also of vulnerable communities and the environment, will be taken.
Projects that serve as solutions to critical problems — pollution, congestion, limited access to water, insufficient and unreliable access to energy, food insecurity, uneven development between the regions — will be chosen over undertakings that serve no higher social or environmental purpose.
We know it will take far more to solve our country’s complex, multi-generational problems. But in areas where we can, we have been implementing social protection programs to alleviate these conditions. Among them: viable housing relocation for people in our project sites and from disadvantaged sectors, skills and livelihood training, scholarship programs, and extensive support to micro-enterprises. Even our growing network of Better World community centers that enable us to partner with non-profits to address societal problems at the ground level provide valuable support.
Building back better
But the real game-changers with a huge multiplier effect will be our ongoing and upcoming projects: the New Manila International Airport, our planned Aerocity development, new agro-industrial clusters as well as new infrastructure and power projects. Through these investments, we will create economic growth centers that will boost our regions and local industries, and provide jobs and livelihood for millions of Filipinos.
In many ways, our situation as a country is much improved from 2020. We are fortunate that our businesses have remained resilient and strong. We have sustained our recovery momentum — thanks in part to the successful rollout of our Ligtas Lahat nationwide employee vaccination program, which fully vaccinated over 97% of our nationwide workforce, ensuring the safe and continuous operations of our businesses.
Despite our country’s many gains, COVID-19 remains a threat. Amid this uncertainty, our purpose at San Miguel Corporation remains as clear as ever — and that is to do everything we can to help build a better Philippines by prioritizing what will be good for all: nation-building, investing in job creation, pursuing greater sustainability and uplifting the lives of as many Filipinos as we can.
This has brought us to where we are today — with many projects completed, our workforce protected and our businesses poised for a sustained recovery. It will carry us through the toughest challenges and bring us closer to the very best version of San Miguel we aspire to be.