Aboitiz, malls and cor­po­rate so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity

STEPHEN CAPILLAS

Cebu Daily News - - OPINION -

Iwas 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, tree­hug­ging 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.

*** 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.

*** 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.

The Way It Is sb­d­c­starkiller1234@ya­hoo.com

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