The old community of Malita, which is said to have existed long before the Americans came to Davao, is undergoing rapid development. From its beginnings as a small community, it is today a first class municipality that serves as the capital of the country's youngest province, Davao Occidental. As a burgeoning urban center, it is expected to become a component city that could soon rival Gen. Santos City, Digos City, and even Davao City.
This July, San Miguel Consolidated Power Corporation (SMCPC), a wholly-owned subsidiary of SMC Global Power (SMCGP), one of the country's largest power companies, will partially begin operations of its state-of-the-art greenfield plant in Malita. Engr. Richard M. Dequilla, SMCPC Project Manager, discloses that the 300-MW power plant will be using clean coal technology.
"The International Energy Agency Coal Center recognizes the circulating fluidized bed (CFB) combustion technology as a clean coal technology, because it produces 90% fewer air emissions and other pollutants compared to pulverized coal, travelling-grate, and stoker-fired power plants. All our greenfield plants across the country are CFB power plants."
Social Development Role
However, the role of San Miguel Corporation (SMC) subsidiaries, SMCGP and SMCPC, in Malita's development is not confined to operating a clean coal power plant near Malita's load center. Engr. Karren Mae P. Lapiz, SMCGP's Community Relations Assistant, acknowledges that more is needed to be done to make Malita's development sustainable and inclusive.
"Since the start of the Malita greenfield project in July 2013, we have been busy implementing projects meant to improve the quality of life of the people we are serving. We have various social development projects in Bgy. Culaman, where the power plant is located, as well as in Bgys. Poblacion, Felis and New Argao."
Two of the projects in 2015 were aimed at youth empowerment. The first was a supplemental nutrition program called, Malusog na Katawan, Matalas na Isipan (Healthy Body, Sharp Mind). Designed to address child malnutrition, which stunts the child's physical and mental development, the program provided one nutritious meal five times a week for six months for every identified malnourished child in Bgys. Poblacion, Culaman, Felis and New Argao, with monthly weight monitoring to record the program's impact on the children.
The second was the Maliteno Leadership Training. Developed to encourage student leaders in Malita to take on the much broader role of becoming leaders in their communities, the training equipped 54 participating student leaders with knowledge and skills needed for community leadership. Engr. Lapiz shares, "young people have the capacity to become leaders only when they are given the opportunity to enhance and demonstrate their own skills."
Social & Environmental Sustainability
In 2015, forty indigent families in Bgys. Poblacion, Culaman, Felis and New Argao became beneficiaries of SMCPC's livelihood project, Alleviating Poverty Through Sustainable Livelihood. Although Malita is fast becoming Davao Occidental's urban center, agriculture and fisheries remain its main industries. The indigent families were thus trained in (1) turmeric propagation and post-harvest processes; (2) food-always-in-the-home or FAITH gardening and vermi-composting; (3) organizational ownership; (4) family visioning; and (5) product packaging, labeling, and marketing. The farmers' organization, United Farmers of Bito, also received assistance in turmeric product packaging and labeling.
Moreover, thirty hectares of denuded government lands in Malita's rural barangays of Culaman and Felis were planted with 14,500 tress, ranging from falcata, narra, mangosteen, lanzones, pomelo and rubber. The tree-planting project is part of SMCPC's reforestation program, and is in line with the National Greening Program (NGP), a convergence initiative among the Departments of Agriculture, Agrarian Reform, and Environment and Natural Resources.
The government claims that NGP is more than a reforestation initiative. It is a climate change mitigation strategy, as well as a poverty reduction strategy. It is designed to provide alternative livelihood activities for marginalized families relating to seedling production and care, and maintenance of newly-planted trees. Engr. Lapiz agrees, "the tree-planting project will provide land claimants additional income in times of harvests. As a result, they will no longer cut trees, since they will be expecting harvests from the trees."
The rapid, yet inclusive and sustainable development of the old community that is widely considered as "the Jewel of the South" could not have been possible without the cooperation of the government, civil society, and the private sector, such as SMCGP and SMCPC. "Corporate social responsibility is an integral part of all SMC companies," shares Camille B. Buenaventura, Executive Director of San Miguel Foundation, SMC's social development arm. "We go beyond what is expected of us under Philippine laws, because we want communities to become productive and self-reliant. As our company grows, so must the communities where we operate."