Behind SMC’s humanitarian facade
The San Miguel Corporation has been boasting of its huge contributions to the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic. Behind its humanitarian facade, however, is its oppressive treatment to people to further squeeze profits through their misery. While its president Ramon Ang is busy with its donation drives, other personnel are also busy evicting thousands of urban poor residents, peasants and fisherfolk.
Amid the pandemic, SMC threatened to demolish the houses of nearly 3,000 residents of Castañas, Guisguis San Roque, Guisguis Talon, and Talaan Aplaya in Sariaya, Quezon to pave way for its coal-fired power plant project in the area. Residents from Sitio Tayawak, Barangay Castañas have been evicted on July 6. In 2018, the local government approved the project after the SMC bribed provincial board members. In addition to the power plant, the company plans to put up a cement plant, a brewery and a port in Sariaya.
Prior to this, the company evicted 400 families from their communities in Taliptip, Bulakan, Bulacan, to pave way for Aerotropolis, an infrastructure program approved by Duterte. The fisherfolk, whom the company made to appear to have voluntarily left, were in fact threatened to be evicted without compensation. The Bulacan local government and the 48th IB assisted in evicting the residents. THe Aerotropolis is set to destroy the livelihood of 1,000 fisherfolk and 2,500 hectares of mangroves crucial to Manila Bay’s ecosystem.
The Aerotropolis is an unsolicited project proposal which replaced the planned rehabilitation project of the current international airport in Metro Manila.
Ang is one of Duterte’s most favored oligarchs. Duterte considers him as his “close friend” especially after SMC donated funds for his suppression campaigns. His donations include the P2-billion funds for drug rehabilitation centers under the “war against drugs,” the P330 million donation to families of soliders who were either killed or wounded when they besieged Marawi City, and another P2.52 billon for the “rehabilitation” of Marawi and parts of Davao devastated by the AFP’s bloody counterinsurgency campaign.
During the pandemic, SMC boasted that it has contributed aid worth P13 billion to various indigent sectors. It counted as “aid” the P3-billion compensation it gave to its own workers, and the funds it spent in constructing a private testing center which it uses to test its employees. The entire P13 billion is tax-deductibe, in accordance to Duterte’s order to deduct all donations, in the form of funds, material or services, that have anything to do with the Covid-19 pandemic.
In exchange, the regime awarded the company the most contracts under its Build, Build, Build program. In addition to the Aerotropolis, it awarded to SMC several construction projects including the Skyway 3, Skyway Extension, Skyway 4, MRT-7 and TPLEX. The MRT-7, previously awarded to the Ayalas, have dislocated 300 families and has resulted in a spate of extrajudicial killings of peasant leaders. It is set to evict 40,000 more residents in Caloocan City. The said projects are behind Duterte’s earlier efforts to lift economic restrictions in the construction subsector, prior to opening other industries under the lockdown.
In 2019, SMC registered P1.02 trillion in net sales and P48.6 billion net revenue. Amid the pandemic, it plans to construct 12 additional animal feed factories and breweries in Cagayan de Oro City and Laguna. It also plans to build additional facilities in its newly-acquired Masinloc Power Plant in Zambales. Majority of the company is owned by the family of Eduardo Cojuangco, one of the biggest cronies of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.