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Tiebreaker Times


Leo Austria thankful to SMC for investing in hometown despite pandemic

San Miguel Beer head coach Leo Austria has not returned to his native Sariaya, Quezon since the quarantine in March due to travel restrictions caused by COVID-19, but he knows that good things are coming to his hometown.

The eight-time PBA champion is grateful that even if the pandemic has affected the country’s economy, San Miguel Corporation (SMC) president and COO Ramon S. Ang has vowed to pursue new investments in Sariaya. The town will soon host a modern, state-of-the-art integrated agro-industrial complex that includes a brewery, a grains terminal and feedmill, a ready-to-eat food manufacturing plant, a fuel tank farm, and port facilities.

“Nakaka-bilib si Boss RSA dahil kung ‘yung ibang kumpanya dito sa Pilipinas ay medyo nag-aalangan, siya naman tuluy-tuloy lang ang investment,” Austria said.

“Sa panahong ito, maraming tao ang nahihirapan sa buhay. Kaya natutuwa ako na all-out pa si Boss. Marami talagang nangangailangan ng trabaho sa amin sa Sariaya, lalung lalo pa nung tumama ang COVID.”

Austria was born and raised in Sariaya, where he also learned to play basketball en route to a stint in the now-defunct Philippine Amateur Basketball League (PABL) and the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA), both as player and coach.

When the COVID-19 pandemic was still unheard of, Austria would often travel to Sariaya during PBA season breaks and other occasions to rest and reconnect with relatives and childhood friends.

“Nitong di ako nakakauwi dahil bawal pa rin bumiyahe, marami pa ring nagtatanong sa akin tungkol sa development sa Sariaya kung matutuloy pa. Ang sabi ko basta si Boss, huwag silang mag-aalala dahil magaling mag-alaga ang San Miguel,” he said.

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Austria told townmates about how San Miguel, under the leadership by RSA, has led COVID-19 response efforts in the private sector. SMC’s PHP 13.112 billion support as of last June 25 includes Php 500 million for PCR testing machines, testing kits, personal protective equipment, and other medical donations; Php 511.1 million in food donations, including canned products, poultry, fresh meats, bread, flour biscuits, milk, coffee, rice; and PHP 97.1 million worth of free ethyl alcohol donated to hospitals and critical health facilities.

Recently, SMC also established its own COVID-19 testing laboratory called Better World Edsa to provide regular testing to 70,000 employees and third-party providers in its network to usher their return to the workplace and help the economy.

He also pointed out that the company has provided housing for those informal settlers who have long been staying at the Sariaya coastline, long considered a hazard zone. San Miguel, in partnership with the local government of Sariaya, built a sustainable housing project in Barangay Castanas. Homes have been given for free to qualified relocatees.

The housing development, called San Miguel-Christian Gayeta Homes, has a total of 450 houses on a 5.4-hectare land area. A total of 86 families have relocated and more are about to move into the 300 completed units while the remaining 150 units are under construction.

Apart from the houses built under Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board (HLURB) standards, San Miguel has made sure that education and business opportunities are available to the new residents.

SMC established a skills and livelihood training center inside the village. In partnership with the Technical Education Skills and Development Authority (TESDA)-Quezon Provincial Office, Quezon National Agricultural School, and Fadz Construction, Inc. it offers programs in food and beverage services, organic farming, driving, electrical installation and maintenance, shielded metal arc welding, and housekeeping, to residents.

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For those who are still in the fishing trade, SMC partnered with the Archdiocese of Lucena and the Sariaya provincial government to construct a Fisherman’s Hall. This facility, located near the river channel leading to the Sariaya Bay, will be a safe and secure place to house the fishermen’s boats, their boat engines, and fishing implements.

Austria is sure that San Miguel’s investment support is what Sariaya needs to boost its economy and generate jobs for his townmates.

“Ako nga kailangang umalis pa ng Sariaya para makipagsapalaran sa Maynila nung bata pa ako dahil mahirap ang buhay. Ngayong nandito na ang San Miguel para tumulong ay di na kailangang pumunta pa ng Maynila ang mga taga sa amin.”

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