SM should do more to help host communities


The recent opening of SM Puerto Princesa has once again brought into focus the effect of SM and other giant malls in its host municipalities.

While invariably the presence of an Ayala, a Robinson or SM mall is considered a badge of progress of the locality, some local businessmen are apprehensive of its adverse effect on their businesses as they have to compete against big and established anchor tenants of SM. The mall also draws the crowd away from their shops and unless you could afford to pay rent and locate in the mall itself, local businessman may end up holding the proverbial empty bag.

I know of a city up north whose officials are tenaciously discouraging the opening of big malls so as to protect the city’s local businessmen and traders. So  pervasive is the  effect of a mall on the way of  life of a  community  that it  has  transcended its initial label as “temples of consumerism” and Henry See, who pioneered it in a big way, is often credited for having changed the Sunday lifestyle of  Filipinos who now prefer promenading in malls rather than gallivanting in parks. And for the growing population of Puerto Princesa and Palawan, this latest mall in the city has certainly widened the shopping and malling choices and destination. PPC has indeed come a long way from those days when residents would go to either Go Tian Suy Store or to Baltazar Goh Trading to buy wholesale groceries, or to Ofelia’s Mini Mart, or to Ram Tan Commercial (still going strong) for convenience, and to Rengel’s for low-priced clothing.

Well, that’s the way it was.

And as the city grows exponentially, expect more changes in the city’s landscape which will require a more aggressive governance and and imaginative leadership to address incipient urban blight, vehicular chaos on the highway, poverty on the fringes and crimes in the streets. If these are the indicators of progress, why, I may as well be up north in Tinitian, in Roxas, or in Dipnay, El Nido, or better still, in Cuyo’s and Salimbanog’s pristine beaches to savor a better quality of life.

 

AND BY THE WAY:  SM  Foundation, Inc., the corporate social responsibility (CSR) arm of the SM Group, should do more than the usual CSR mantra of providing scholarships and building classrooms.

To be meaningful and relevant, the foundation’s leadership could look into the poverty indicators of the province and I’m sure they will be shocked to know that Palawan has the highest poverty index in the MIMAROPA Region.

It is in the area of poverty alleviation that the foundation could strategically intervene. That must be a tall order, but they could select a community and integrate a livelihood project with the business of SM, similar to what San Miguel Corp. did with the Sumilao farmers, whom the corporation trained to raise quality hogs to be sold directly to San Miguel’s Purefoods business – at better price than what middlemen offer. It thus contributes directly to reducing poverty in the locality.

If we have to fight poverty, let’s attack its source- lack of capital and dedicated market for its produce. SM could provide all those with its financial muscle and almost unlimited market reach.  SM Foundation could make its CSR more relevant by being where it could make a difference. Otherwise, its efforts are but a collage of activities to get tax exemptions. Poverty amidst boom is inexcusable, where one has the capacity to do a part in licking it.

 

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