Opinion

Big time thinking

Big time thinking

Months before his brutal murder, my friend Dominic Sytin visited me at home just before I checked in to the Philippine Heart Center for an angioplasty procedure. Those visits were a bit rare given Dominic’s busy schedule running several family corporations and as always we would end up talking about his ups and downs, mostly the hassles he faced. And as always I would end up reminding him to slow down a little, take care of his health and try not to be as driven as he was. On that last meeting, I remember clearly how he tried to light me up, to strive for more and go for the opportunities available. I countered that I’ve seen what success does to people especially those who step away from God and God’s purpose. I told him that at my age I have discovered what St. Paul shared when he said he had found contentment and am happy to play it by ear as far as God’s directions are concerned.

Being a self-made businessman, Dominic always believed in making things happen and going out there. He simply could not accept that a guy like me would opt to step away from the opportunities and be content so he decided to hurl a mental porcupine my way by saying “If you’re already content this early perhaps you set your goals too low.” Needless to say, I bristled at the remark but by God’s grace and knowing that Dominic meant well, I held myself back, casually dismissing the well-meant taunt. But to this day, I have kept that statement in mind, every now and then using it to ask: Is my goal too low?  I’m happy to report that my goals are not too low, just very different from my friend’s views. I’m simply more conservative, deliberate and like to do things that really challenge me beyond cash flow. Let’s think Significance and Impact.

I share this story in today’s column because we are at a point in history when opportunities and leaders abound in the Philippines, when we can redefine the historical mindset, the standard and the goals we set for the nation and the people. You’ve all heard the term “showcase” and among young architects, the chance to design and fulfill the construction of a “showcase project” is what launches their career. The bad side to a showcase project is that it is generally all for show, too young in terms of content, or generally immature. But when architects progress and mature professionally, their showcase projects are not just about form but greatly about function, purpose and public benefit. This morning I woke up with the realization that it is high time for the Philippines and Filipinos to think and expect “Showcase Projects” that are globally competitive. Take for instance the San Miguel Corporation – Bulacan Airport Project. After years and years of delay, obstruction and challenges, the project has finally been given the green light and it is one massive and very modern project not only in terms of form, function and multi-purpose.

The project proponent certainly broke the mold of how business is done in the country by putting up the land, the capital, with no conditionalities imposed on government. This is previously unheard of in terms of infrastructure projects and public benefit. Investors rarely offered up their own property for public use, and they always expected or demanded “Sovereign Guarantees” or tax based income streams. For all intents and purposes, the SMC-Bulacan Airport is entirely privately owned, operated and funded with absolutely no burden or risk to government or taxpayers. This is a humongous first.  SMC also stepped up by calling in major designers, operators and developers who are established and respected institutions in the field of airport construction, development and operation; Groupe ADPi, Meindhart Group and Jacobs who were involved in the construction of the Singapore Changi Airport, Atlanta Airport, and France’s Charles de Gaulle Airport. Calling in such companies sends an undeniable message to the world that the Philippines and San Miguel Corporation is doing business at global standards.

Everybody knows that a businessman like Ramon Ang never thinks small and he clearly does not like to waste money and resource on “single business investments” or one-product ventures. Early on, it was RSA who drove product integration by setting up Petron stations that had San Miguel stores along with their own bank and with services for SLEX and Star ETC cards and loads. From that simple stroke of integration, now comes the giant size version of airport development, the creation of the next new city, a major industrial hub along with a never before seen or imagined expressway loop and train system. I believe that Ramon Ang strategically chose Bulakan, Bulacan as the site of the SMC airport because he knew that the New Clark City will ultimately become the future government center making the presence of both irrevocably complimentary and necessary. With Metro Manila considered to have “stage 4 cancer”, it won’t be long when the new “Metro Philippines” becomes our modern capital.

The sheer size and scope of the project as often shared by RSA is mind boggling at a cost of P734 billion but what we should all focus on is the fact that this new “City” and “showcase world class airport” will tell the world that the Philippines is now a legitimate investment destination where companies and investors can come and partner with Filipinos who can think big and think world class. That is now the challenge that faces all of us; how do we extend out tents, expand our territories, what is our showcase project that is more than form and function but of great public benefit. It’s never about flash, it must always be about impact. One million jobs, thousand of businesses, billions in taxes, that’s all part of the flash. Telling the world that Filipinos are world-class; that’s impact!

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