The Way It Is

Aboitiz, malls and corporate social responsibility

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08:30 PM April 20th, 2017

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By: Stephen D. Capillas, April 20th, 2017 08:30 PM

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I was supposed to write something about the Inquirer series of articles on malls in the country published last year owing to the caveat that malls are among the most common and favored go-to places of Filipinos in recent years especially when one wants to escape the summer heat but don’t want to dip into a pool or swim in a beach for budget reasons.

Then there was the death of business leader Roberto “Bobby” M. Aboitiz early this week, and while I’m no expert on his life and career, I see a sort of correlation between what he worked on for the latter part of his life and the explosion of malls in the country.

First, the malls. While malls may be looked on with disdain as obtrusive structures of concrete, glass and steel by leftist militants, tree-hugging environmentalists and hippie artist types, a “shallow, 20th century shrine to capitalism” so to speak — the SM Baguio “earthballing” of trees case comes to mind — they do provide a valuable service to the public.

And if the construction and development of malls is done in partnership with stakeholders, it can exist and thrive side by side with the rest of the surrounding community, providing both jobs and income opportunities to side businesses as well as help build parks and playgrounds that can enhance and develop the surrounding areas.

That is just one of several inputs I got from the Inquirer series on malls, and in a sense, that is related to what Aboitiz and other business leaders who commit themselves and are actually doing something to enrich Metro Cebu beyond earning profits for their companies.

The Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc. (Rafi), which Aboitiz used to head as president, sponsored the election debates of local candidates in 2013 and 2016; and as part of their program, they would warm up the audience with a video presentation of the “Mega Cebu” program, an advocacy of theirs which envisions a sustainable, competitive Metro Cebu that can take on and be at par with the world’s economic and tourism hubs.

Though I find some good points and do agree somewhat with the Mega Cebu progam’s philosophy of synergy among Metro Cebu’s local governments for a shared vision and program of action for common development, this early, one can see the problems faced by advocates of such a philosophy.

This is especially evident among leaders like Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña who prefer to rule their own turf and believe in going their own way without being dictated by a bunch of bureaucrats, neighboring rival local officials and so on.

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But the Rafi is backing up their own philosophy of development exemplified by Aboitiz’s favorite analogy of the “bugsay” or paddle philosophy by doing their part in developing the community, namely building classrooms and other outreach programs as well as developing student leaders and scientists who will share their beliefs and seek to use their gifts for the betterment of their communities.

It may not be big-ticket projects that politicians and officials running for reelection would love to brag about, but they are no less significant in its impact to their intended beneficiaries.

I may not agree with everything that they espouse — personally, I view Rafi as a corporate version of a lobbyist or social media influencer at least as far as their Mega Cebu advocacy is concerned— but I have to respect what Mr. Aboitiz and the group that he led until his untimely demise are doing for Metro Cebu.

They along with other business leaders have shown and will continually show that Big Business is not just about profits but about social responsibility.

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SOMEHOW, one reaches a saturation point to reading news stories about the Abu Sayyaf bandits who showed up in Inabanga town, Bohol province in recent days; and so I read up on other news, and lo and behold, there was one that piqued my interest on things tech.

A Yahoo! article made the prediction that cell phones will soon be replaced by augmented reality devices that will do everything cell phones can do and more without the effort of actually holding them in one’s hands. Think Google Glass, and you know what I mean.

Our obvious and readily available experience of augmented reality comes from the “Pokemon Go” game in mobile devices in which players find these fictional “Pokemon” or pocket monsters in real-world locations.

Upon reading the article, I remembered the augmented reality effects shown in the “Iron Man” films in which the “billionaire, playboy, philanthropist” superhero played by actor Robert Downey Jr. interacts with virtual reality environments as projected in his helmet and in his lab by his personal digital assistant Jarvis.

The possibility of augmented reality, while within reach in the US and other First World countries, is sadly unavailable here in the Philippines so far as I can see. But we can play catchup, and boy, do we have a lot of catching up to do.

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