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The Online Magazine for Sustainable Seas
November, 1998 Vol. 1 No. 11

Good Business
Davao City's business sector tackles the environment challenge

The business sector is a leading
supporter of the effort to "Save Davao Gulf"







hen the traveling marine exhibit "Our Seas, Our Life" opened in Davao City last October 9, one group stood out for its strong support for marine conservation: the Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCCI). Earlier, the Chamber had committed to help promote public awareness of coastal and marine issues by serving as anchor organization of the I Love the Ocean movement in Davao City.

Both "Our Seas, Our Life," which features bone specimens, color photos, video presentations and information panels focusing on the importance and fragility of the marine environment, and I Love the Ocean, which is touted as "an organized action for sustainable seas," are an offshoot of the ongoing celebration in the Philippines of the United Nations-initiated International Year of the Ocean 1998. They were initiated by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) through its Coastal Resource Management Project (CRMP) and the National Committee on Marine Sciences, UNESCO's Philippine focal point. CRMP is a five-year (1996-2001) technical assistance project supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Davao City is the fourth leg of the five-city tour of "Our Seas, Our Life," which has already been mounted in Cebu City, Metro Manila and Dumaguete City. The exhibit runs until November 6 in Davao City and then will move on to its fifth and last stop, General Santos City. Since it was first shown at SM-Cebu City, the exhibit has enjoyed strong support from the business sector, with companies such as SM, WG&A, Islands Souvenirs, Supercat and Banco Filipino leading the list of corporate sponsors.

In Davao City, however, the business community's all-important involvement in the cause of "Our Seas, Our Life" rose to a new level through DCCCII's engagement as anchor organization of I Love the Ocean. The Chamber's vice president for operations and services, Banco Davao president Orlando Carvajal, is heading the movement's campaign for membership in Davao City as DCCCII's project director for I Love the Ocean.

High awareness
Banco Davao is a member of the Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP) and as such contributes 1% of its income before tax for PBSP's operations and projects, including those that deal with environment problems and issues. It is but one among the many companies that came out in support of the launching of I Love the Ocean and the staging of "Our Seas, Our Life" in Davao City. Another prominent name, JSCitimall headed by John Gaisano Jr., provided the venue for the exhibit while others, including Banco Filipino, Ekran Services Corporation, Apo View Hotel, Durian Hotel and Advertex, contributed much needed logistical support.

John Gaisano, Chairman, JS Gaisano Citimall

"In general, Davao City has a higher awareness for social issues than many other Philippine cities," Carvajal observes. This city of 1.2 million people is a city of migrants, he points out, and is therefore a "much more open and much more pluraristic society. As far as the environment is concerned, there is certainly considerable awareness."

Business in Davao is based primarily on agriculture and natural resources, one reason why the city has so far been spared the problem of industrial pollution. Perhaps this is also why local businesssmen are more environment-conscious than most -- after all, taking care of the environment can only help ensure the long-term sustainability of their businesses.

Business realities
How well such environmental awareness is translated into making local business operations more environment-friendly is however not easily evident -- yet. "Being an environmentalist is not easy," Carvajal says, more so in the face of the current economic crunch. "Taking care of the environment is a matter of survival over the long haul," he points out. "In the short term, the environment often takes second place. We have to be very realistic. Business has to go with the least cost and the least cost material may not be the most environment friendly. As a business, our first obligation is to survive, weíre no good to anybody if weíre dead. When push comes to shove we just have to take more risks -- that's the law of survival." Even PBSP, he says, has slowed down "quite a bit" in its environment conservation efforts.

Orlando Carval, President, Banco Davao

What stands out is the business community's willingness to lend a helping hand to environmental projects initiated by government and other institutions. Often, this willingness stems from the local business leaders' own personal convictions. "I am an environmentalist," is Carvajal's unstinting reply when asked about his ready acceptance of the challenge of promoting the ocean conservation movement in Davao City. As chairman of the community involvement committee of PBSP, he has helped promote a successful watershed rehabilitation and development project which, he proudly notes, "has been cited by Manila." Banco Davao is involved, he says, "because of me."

Many companies hold a strong philosophy of community involvement, though this does not always explicitly embody environmentalism. JSCitimall, for example, has long espoused active social involvement and is known as an advocate of social responsibility. Over the years, it has instituted special projects geared toward "shaping the youth and instilling in them the values of perseverance, social involvement and excellence." As far as the environment and ocean conservation in particular are concerned, however, John Gaisano would only say, "Iíve spent a lot of time in different socio-civic projects but not in environmental concerns. I think it's about time I get involved." Manila has been a big motivating factor for him. He has lived in Manila, he says. "Itís an environmental mess. We donít want our city to be like Manila."

A matter of self-respect
As anchor organization of I Love the Ocean, DCCCI intends to focus on advocacy and education. "We are going to promote this heavily with the students," Carvajal promises, simply because it's the younger generations who are more responsive to environmental issues. "Our young people care a lot more about what the environment will be in the future because they're the ones who are going to live in it," he says.

Carvajal says he is also pushing for greater involvement in I Love the Ocean by DCCCII members and business in general. "This is definitely a palpable thing for our members to do and we hope they will all sign up with I Love the Ocean."

Given a choice, Carvajal would like to see the Movement get involved in waste management. "Itís a matter of self-respect. People who don't dispose of garbage properly have no self respect," he says. "Davao City has a good waste disposal system, but we really should have a recycling system as well."

They probably can do more, give more to the environment than they take away Ė if they could be sure that it would make a difference. Business sees the environment issue in economic terms, and thatís no big surprise. "What can we do? We can empower our people economically," says Carvajal. "Poverty puts pressure on the environment. The most environment-friendly thing the government can do is to eradicate poverty."

"Most of us in the business sector still need to be educated," says Gaisano. "Rationally I think I should support the environmental movement, but you should convince me. If this whole thing will help us create a better community, then we will do it."



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