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Investing in power, water, transportation, and healthcare – essentials in the day-to-day lives of Filipinos – translates to contributing to national progress and improving the quality of life in the country. Anchored on services that are key to thriving communities, it is crucial to integrate sustainability in the operations of these businesses. Now, more than ever, there is a strong call to action to fulfill the pressing needs of the present without jeopardizing resources for the use of future generations.
Years prior to the pandemic and the resulting economic crisis, leading infrastructure investment firm Metro Pacific Investments Corporation (MPIC) has always been more purposeful in the conduct of its community-oriented programs, zeroing in on the long-term impact to profits, people, and ultimately, the planet.
“Protecting the planet for the benefit of present and future generations is still without a doubt our most important challenge right now,” says MPIC Chairman Manuel V. Pangilinan. “We are witnesses to the rise of new viruses and the worsening intensity of climate-related disasters. All these interrelated challenges profoundly shape the way we do business.”
Beyond the sustainability initiatives of its operating companies, MPIC has actively innovated programs that address key sustainability targets outside its direct commercial interests through Metro Pacific Investments Foundation (MPIF) and its flagship program, Shore It Up! (SIU).
Shoring Up the Business
After Typhoon Ondoy struck and submerged most parts of Metro Manila and suburbs, the natural disaster prompted the business group to seriously address climate change and environmental degradation. With a water-centric business asset through Maynilad, the Corporation recognized the effects of climate change on water and its subsequent impact on the ecosystem it surrounds.
Regardless of proximity, the degradation of coastal and marine bionetwork compromises the physical, economic and food security of local communities, and affects the quality and quantity of marine resources. Critical ecosystem services such as food source, oxygen generation, and carbon storage are threatened and climate change adaptation by natural means slowly becomes unfeasible.
MPIC’s power assets are currently looking into increasing the use of renewable energy systems, with the end goal of reducing the impacts of CO2 and other GHGs on the ocean. However, SIU has directed its attention to the ocean itself, fundamentally creating and sustaining initiatives that aim to simultaneously mitigate the effects of climate change and enhance the lives of Filipinos.
After the MVP group of companies strategically aligned their CSR programs through impact integration assessment and distinguishing for lead advocates, MPIC decided to focus its efforts on responding to environmental issues such as climate change and ocean conservation given that most of our investments are related to natural resources.
The ocean, being the largest life support and ecosystem on Earth is essential in ensuring a sustainable future . Our growing partnerships with local government units from coastal communities have made it possible to implement our programs on Mangroves, Marine Protected Areas and Marine Guardians,” says MPIC VP for public relations and corporate communications Melody del Rosario.
On Environmental Impact
Now on its 13th year, MPIC has forged partnerships with local governments and established various programs in 11 partner sites, a highlight of which are the Mangrove Protection/Propagation and Information Centers in Alaminos City, Pangasinan; Del Carmen in Siargao Island; and Cordova, Cebu. Across all three locations, there are almost 5,300 hectares of protected mangroves.
A private-public venture with the LGUs, it serves as MPIC’s legacy project for the Filipino people - an infrastructure investment for the future of the country.
After almost a decade of partnership with the local government of Alaminos, MPIC commissioned a study with the Business for Sustainable Development (BSD) to assess the impact of SIU’s presence in the area. Around 111.92 tCO2e of carbon stock in Bued Mangrove Park, equivalent to removing greenhouse emission from 24 passenger vehicles driven for a year, were attributed to MPIF’s support and investment. For every peso invested, Php 0.59 of social value was created through the improved fishery sector, coastal protection, flood protection, as well as increased knowledge of mangroves.
Del Carmen’s Center reported 0% mangrove cutting since its inauguration. “The conglomerate, through the SIU program, is also working out a unique carbon offsetting scheme with the municipality of Del Carmen in Siargao Island, which is home to a contiguous 4,000-hectare mangrove forest, the second biggest of its kind in the Philippines after Palawan,” adds Del Rosario, who is also the Foundation’s president.
The implementation of its Marine Protection, Inspection, and Conservation (MPIC) Guardians program, empowering local bantay dagats in the provinces of Puerto Galera in Oriental Mindoro and Medina in Misamis, Oriental, resulted in the significant decrease of illegal fishing practices. Medina reported an increase in fish catch and fish size, citing a 40% estimated increase as of May last year.
The MPIC Guardians are also responsible for the constant monitoring of their Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) to prevent environmental degradation, thereby protecting ecologically and biologically significant marine habitats. Currently. the Guardians are surveilling around six MPAs, one in Medina and five in Puerto Galera.
On Socioeconomic Impact
SIU’s major initiatives are not singularly focused on alleviating environmental impacts to coastal communities. They also foster the involvement of the local community by providing livelihood opportunities, whether supplementary to or resulting from its programs, impacting the socioeconomic aspect as well.
The Mangrove Centers have directly employed ten Mangrove Eco-guides across all three sites, while also becoming additional ecotourism hubs in their cities and spawning a myriad of tourism-related businesses and activities that employ locals. Del Carmen developed a full-fledged community-based ecotourism program that generated 1,000 direct employments, more than 10 homestays, 20 transport services, 20 restaurants, 1 operational mall, 146 boat tour operators, and a poverty reduction of 29% as of 2019 data.
The Alaminos Center, overall, created a social value approximately worth almost Php 770,000, through the establishment of tour guides/ boat owners, souvenir shops, mom-and-pop stores and transient homes.
Thus far, MPIC has minted 36 MPIC Guardians who are helping enforce marine laws to ensure the sustainability of aquatic resources. This year, the Foundation is expanding the program to the province of Marinduque, creating a strategic brotherhood to protect the Verde Island passage.
“The fisherfolk communities are among the country’s most important but underserved sectors, that’s why MPIC and its affiliates are investing bulk of its resources into fisherfolk and coastal community-focused programs,” says Del Rosario.
Sustainability at its Core
In March 2021, the MPIC Group Sustainability Council was approved to support the Company’s renewed focus on Sustainability. The main objective of the Council is to harmonize and coordinate the sustainability initiatives of the MPIC Group for a wider positive impact on all stakeholders.
“The establishment of the Group Sustainability Council, under the leadership and guidance of the Board, underscores MPIC’s resolve to embed sustainability in its core,” said MPIC CFO & CSO Chaye A. Cabal – Revilla. “Driven by our purpose to contribute to national progress and uplift the lives of Filipinos, we will utilize combined resources across the group to make a difference and humbly support the targets of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.”
Even prior to this, sustainability has been at the heart of SIU’s goals. Its initiatives address several of the United Nations Sustainability Development Goals or SDGs, a collection of 17 goals set in 2015 by the United Nations General Assembly, designed as a blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all by 2030.
Locally, SIU’s initiatives contribute to the attainment of the Philippine Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (PBSAP) targets, a plan to restore, rehabilitate, effectively manage and secure biodiversity by 2028, in order to maintain ecosystem services to sustain healthy, resilient Filipino communities and delivering benefits to all.
In line with this renewed commitment towards perpetuating the global standards of monitoring the sustainability initiatives of corporations, MPIC also endeavors to adhere to both the Sustainable Accounting Board Alliance (SASB) Framework, a program for organizations and individuals that support the need for more decision-useful, cost-effective sustainability disclosure; and the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC), the largest corporate sustainability initiative aimed to align strategies and operations with universal principles on good governance and ethical business practices.
Editor's note: This article was provided by Metro Pacific Investments Corporation.