SMC running 'full speed ahead,' unfazed by pandemic

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 17) – Business is in full blast for San Miguel Corporation despite the pandemic, with its top boss Ramon Ang saying that projects continue while other firms tread with caution.

"You separate the men and the boys. In a crisis, there's always an opportunity like this," Ang, president and chief operating officer of the diversified conglomerate, told CNN Philippines' Rico Hizon.

"When everybody is staying home, we are out working and we make sure all our projects are in full speed. When they wake up and finally report to work, we are already done so all of the opportunity, we have practically harvested," he added. "Most important of these things is we want to keep the jobs."

Boosting SMC's case is its involvement in essential industries such as power, food and beverage, cement, and infrastructure, as demand was "not that much affected" by the COVID-19 crisis. However, he did note that Petron, its oil refinery unit, was in a crunch earlier this year as a huge drop in world crude prices pulled down profits, followed by a drop in demand as people and cars stayed home.

SMC reported a ₱1.1-billion net income in the first three months of 2020, a big drop compared to a ₱12.8-billion profit during the same period last year. All key businesses suffered lower revenues as the COVID-19 crisis paralyzed consumption.

Ang added that even during the lockdown, he would regularly check on the progress the group's major construction projects, such as the Skyway Stage 3 which opens in November, and the Skyway extension segment in Susana Heights along the South Luzon Expressway and Sucat, which is nearly finished.

He also lobbied for more businesses to reopen and to scale up mass testing so that employees can return to work and to restore consumer confidence.

Meanwhile, Ang said work will soon begin for the ₱734-billion New Manila International Airport in Bulacan, around October after the so-called "ghost month." He added that SMC might need an extra year to deliver the project, saying the first two runways and terminal of the northern gateway will be ready by around 2026. This is still within the four to six-year window given by the Transportation department when it awarded the contract in 2019. 

The aetoropolis would have four parallel runways and a passenger terminal that could serve 100 million passengers yearly.

The project also involves building an 8.4-kilometer tollway that will connect the new gateway to the North Luzon Expressway in Marilao, Bulacan.