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THE OUTSIDER (Melandrew T. Velasco): RSA’s art of service to nation-building

When Million Trees Foundation, Inc (MTFI) was incorporated in 2021, we envisioned it to be more than an entity that will ensure the sustainability of the Metropolitan Waterworks and  Sewerage System (MWSS) Annual Million Trees Challenge started by then MWSS Chairman/Administrator Gen. Reynaldo V. Velasco. Together with the incorporators, we intended the foundation to be a partner of government in pursuing sustainable economic development.
Now going into its third year, MTFI is on track to meet the objectives its founders have set for the organization.
It has strengthened partnerships with other organizations that share its advocacy of protecting the
environment and with organizations who are stakeholders in better-managed watersheds. These partnerships were forged with institutional partners Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS), Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), San Miguel Corporation (SMC), Maynilad, Manila Water, Manila Water Foundation, Sta. Clara
International, Nestle and Grundfos Foundation. Over the years, stakeholder partners have also
increased. One of MTFI’s stakeholder partners is Luzon Clean Water Development Corporation (LCWDC), more popular as Bulacan Bulk Water is a subsidiary of SMC.MTFI is grateful for these partnerships and for their unwavering support.
As we begin another year, MTFI extends to SMC President and CEO Ramon S. Ang (RSA) good
wishes as he celebrated another milestone in his life last January 14. As one of the institutional partners of MTFI, SMC has contributed to the development and construction several facilities like the MTFI Executive Lounge and the Million Trees SMC Multi-Purpose and
Eco-Learning Hub called Eddie’s Barn as tribute to the late President Fidel V. Ramos.
Under the leadership of RSA, SMC has endowed MTFI with an annual P5-million financial support to carry out its activities since 2021. This is a big boost to the Million Trees Foundation with its projects in full-swing, both infrastructure and activity-based especially with the additional grant of 20 more hectares by DENR and MWSS to MFTI’s use. These projects include construction of a nature walk trail, educational walk trail and amenities, restrooms, seed re bagging and tree-planting activities.
The Million Trees Foundation is grateful for this endowment as it is a testament of closer collaboration among entities for the benefit of the country.

MTFI also recognizes the steps SMC has undertaken to help protect the environment—from tree planting activities, reforestation, coastal clean-up and river rehabilitation conducted by SMC and its subsidiaries nationwide to the reduction of emissions, water use and waste in its business operations.
“I will do more to help our people,” RSA vowed as he celebrated his birthday. Known as a nation-builder, the projects of SMC are aimed at revitalizing the economy and address the myriad problems that plaque the country—hunger, poverty, lack of access to education, unemployment, and lack of infrastructure that hinder faster economic growth.
Moreover, these are intended to give back to the Filipinos who have contributed to the growth and success of SMC from a purely food and beverage company to become one of the leading diversified conglomerates in the country.
SMC Foundation, the socio-civic arm of SMC, is responsible for corporate social responsibility
projects. Apart from this, RSA has his RSA Foundation that has provided scholarship grants and
medical assistance to many.
I was National Chairman of the TOFIL (Ten Outstanding Filipinos) 2019 Awards Committee when the Board of Judges chaired by then Supreme Court Administrator, now Supreme Court Justice Jose Midas Marquez chose RSA as one of the awardees. His contributions to nation-building in the field of business and entrepreneurship were recognized.
Last year, his generosity to the marginalized and love for humanity were recognized when he was named in Forbes Asia’s 2023 list of “Heroes of Philanthropy.” He was the only Filipino in the list comprised of 15 philanthropists from the Asia-Pacific region.
Filipinos named in Forbes Asia’s Annual Heroes of Philanthropy previously were SMIC Vice-
Chair Teresita Sy-Coson, Vista Mall and Vista Land Chair Manuel Villar, Knowledge Channel Foundation, Inc founder Rina Lopez Bautista, Fila Isport Life chair Jose Mari “Butch” Albert, Santa Elena Construction & Development Corp. president Alice Galang Eduardo and Susana Abad Santos Madrigal, president of Consuelo Chito Madrigal Group of Companies, among others.
The philanthropy of RSA was very much visible during the height of the pandemic. SMC’s response to the challenge involved the mobilization of Php13 billion, donation of food packs, disinfectant alcohol, medical equipment and supplies, and waived tool fees for health frontliners.
It was also during the pandemic when SMC initiated the Backyard Bukid urban farming project
where employees grow their own vegetables to put on their table or earn extra by selling them to
other employees. The vegetables are gown at the idle land behind the SMC headquarters in
Ortigas. Cultivated in the backyard vegetable garden are bokchoi, camote, eggplant, kangkong,
green lettuce, romaine lettuce, mustard, okra, siling labuyo, pechay, cilantro, winged bean, and
kale.  Participants to the urban farming project are given lessons on organic vegetable
production, soil management, and pest and disease management. They also learn how to grow
vegetables on limited space available.
On the Backyard Bukid project RSA said: “Our goal is to create an environment where our
employees and support staff can learn new skills and gain new experiences to help them become
more resilient and self-sufficient especially in these uncertain times.”
For RSA, empowering Filipinos with education and skills is key to unlocking the country’s
potential. Thus, SMC also established the Better World community centers, the most recent of which is the Better World Smokey Mountain with its 39 modern classrooms.
Furthermore, the infrastructure projects of SMC have provided employment opportunities
enabling people to support their families and achieve financial security allowing them to build a
hopeful future for themselves and their families. “This is at the heart of our nation-building,” he
said.