Shareholders must act

Before the oil spill, members of the clergy appealed to the stockholders of SMC to persuade the corporate giant to help protect the environment.

The conflict between the profit motive and the public welfare has been playing out in the tragedy in Oriental Mindoro courtesy of the spreading pollutant reportedly owned by San Miguel Corp.

SMC, the country’s biggest conglomerate, has extended its corporate reach from food to almost all major industries, but in the process has earned notoriety for using its financial heft to maximize profit.

In 2022, as the nation emerged from the pandemic, the SMC group had a banner year.

It delivered a net income of P43.2 billion. “Our strong top-line performance is a clear indication of our economy’s continuous recovery, as well as the strong consumer demand for our products and services,” SMC president and CEO Ramon S. Ang said.

San Miguel Food and Beverage posted a record P34.7 billion profit, Ginebra San Miguel’s net income was a respectable P4.5 billion, and its flagship San Miguel Brewery Inc. contributed P21.8 billion in net income.

Thus, groups fighting to protect the global marine treasure Verde Island Passage said the conglomerate must step up and do more for the communities and the environment affected by the oil spill.

The passage lies between Batangas and Oriental Mindoro and is called by environmentalists the Amazon of the Oceans for its rich concentration of biodiversity.

SL Harbor Bulk Terminal Corporation, under SMC unit San Miguel Shipping and Lighterage, contracted RDC Reield Marine Services to ship 800,000 liters of industrial oil on the tanker MT Princess Empress that sunk off the coast of Oriental Mindoro.

The oil spill is making its way fast to the marine wildlife crown jewel unless quick action is taken to avert it. Thus far, the governments of Japan and the United States have committed resources to help keep the tragedy from turning into a point of no return.

Through all the urgent actions to avert disaster the past two weeks, the silence of SMC was too palpable, while the investigations held in Congress tempt suspicions of a coverup.

Before the oil spill, members of the clergy appealed to the stockholders of SMC to persuade the corporate giant to help protect the environment.

Church leaders in the Episcopal Commission on Social Action, Justice, and Peace urged SMC to “go beyond the ledger and think of what it would mean for our country and the world if we continue to enable the massive use of fossil fuels.”

It asked its shareholders to prevent the company from becoming the culprit in the further degradation of the seascapes on which rely many communities for their livelihood, such as the Verde Island Passage.

“His Holiness, Pope Francis, has called on us to protect Earth, our only home,” the letter of appeal read.

The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines responded to this call through a pastoral statement issued in January which urged those part of the Church to use their position as stockholders and stakeholders of financial institutions and companies to demand responsibility from big business in protecting the environment.

Such responsibility should be required, according to the clergy.

“Indeed, many of our brothers and sisters in Christ found it prudent in the past to entrust financial resources of the Church to such institutions, including SMC, and are now taking steps to live our responsibilities as stewards of Creation to call for action,” according to their statement.

“We do not need to wait for the government to act, as we can act on our own to start the process,” went their call to action.

Shareholders of the company can show solidarity with the people in the protection of the nation’s welfare by pressuring SMC to act responsibly, starting with facing the nation regarding its response to the devastating oil spill.

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