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Bacolod City, Philippines Monday, November 19, 2012
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Wrong tree


Weeks back I was reading the news that businessmen in Bacolod were asking Ayala Land Inc. to reconsider its planned pull-out from the deal with the province although the Commission on Audit, after months of stalling that precipitated the Ayala move, had approved the deal.

The proverbial dog barking up the wrong tree seems apt in this case. The businessmen barked at COA as did many others. In fact this column first called for the impeachment of the COA chair, Grace Pulido Tan for this conscious and criminal and immoral freezing of the approval of the deal.

This time the businessmen are howling against ALI as if this development depended entirely on ALI.

Sure we are disappointed, really disappointed at ALI after all the support that the people of Negros extended to them. To many, the withdrawal plan of ALI ignored this support and acted just like SM Prime Holdings. It’s all business, no hurt feelings, ALI is telling us and whether we like it or not, we just have to bear and grin at this decision, albeit not yet fully completed.

We understand that business is business and we cannot begrudge ALI for that frame of mind. We just have to remember that and charge that to experience.

What this means is that we should not bark at ALI like hungry dogs. Instead, the angry barks should be directed at SM Prime Holdings and its allied businesses here in Bacolod and anywhere else, like in Manila, Iloilo, etc.

If we really are angry at SM for this hostile action that deprives us of opportunities in order that it alone can corner our patronage and money, we must also avoid buying from them. Patronage is the language that SM or any other businesses understand.

Enjoy their air conditioning environment but buy elsewhere, because our local businesses have what SM and its other markets offer. In fact, our local businesses sell them cheaper and we keep our money in local circulation rather than be siphoned to Manila where SM pays taxes.

Ask SM where it pays income and corporate taxes that run into millions and ask how much it pays Bacolod. You would be amazed at how much SM sucks from us. Know and cry for our patronage of SM!

Our businessmen are adversely and directly affected. Our locally-grown ones pay their taxes here and who live with us. SM is in a sense a “stranger” a neo-colonialist with us as its economic colony. Thus it can treat us shabbily because of its size and we cower.

You may argue that SM and its supermarket hire local workers. Look further and know how much they are exploited under SM’s labor contract-only policy.

I only wonder where our labor unions are and why they have become deaf and mute to what is going on in the labor policy of SM.

This policy is not only local but also nationwide. Ask SM’s former workers.

Let our local businessmen learn from the experience of their colleagues in Iloilo and in Baguio and then they would be barking and cutting down the right tree.

The withdrawal of ALI has not yet been completely consummated and in fact the reason for their decision is no longer the arrogant and subservient COA but the case in court.

We know how courts of justice move – the snails can move a kilometer in a year but we know that this does not happen to a case within a year. I know of a simple case that has dragged on for four years and the case remains pending.

We cannot therefore blame the court in this case – that is what its nature is and lawyers need to keep the case going to keep their fees coming.

If SM wants this case closed, it can just withdraw its complaint that has already been debunked by COA. The province cannot ask the court to hurry up but if SM has any sensitivity to the feelings of the people of Negros from whom it profits millions each year, it should withdraw that case immediately. In truth SM knows that it no longer has a case.

If our businessmen want to bark, howl loudly against SM; better still develop a program of action that will save their own business because, in truth, SM is not good for their economic health.

All they need is to sit down and think deeply and clearly on the implications (to them) of the dominance of SM in the city’s economy.

This should apply to the city authorities. You have bent over backwards to accommodate SM by immorally diverting traffic that adds to our cost to please and benefit SM but they are killing competition. It’s a bad deal at our expense.*

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