OPINION: No water in SM Food Court gives a lie to ‘SM Cares’

Ellen Tordesillas

Posted at Dec 06 2017 01:21 AM | Updated as of Dec 09 2017 06:26 AM

(SM Malls has responded. Click here for part 2 of the story. -- Eds) 

“SM Cares” is supposedly the social conscience of SM, the mall giant.

Its website says SM Cares, a division of SM Foundation Inc., is the group that handles the corporate social responsibility programs of SM Prime Holdings, Inc. It was launched in 2004 to organize the sustainability efforts into a comprehensive program that tackles a wide range of initiatives.

Fine. I have a friend who has a son with autism who participates in SM’s yearly Angels’ Walk. I’ve read about their housing projects for those left homeless by the 2013 super typhoon Yolanda.

But I find SM Cares inconsistent “with the decision of SM Malls management to remove water stations in their Food Courts forcing customers to buy bottled water. In SM Food Court, it’s only SM bonus bottled water that is being sold.

I noticed water stations had been removed in SM Food Courts about two years ago but concessionaires would provide service water. That was still okay.

But lately, however, the concessionaires refuse to give free service water. You have to buy the bottled SM Bonus water.

I find this unconscionable. Those who go to the Food Court for their meals do not belong to the high-income group. If you are rich, you go to restaurants where cost of water is included in the price of the meal.

Does it have something to do with SM Cares’ “Project Wash” with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), which says “a portion of the proceeds from the sales of SM bottled water goes to UNICEF Philippines for Project WASH (Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene)?

We are all for supporting UNICEF’s program of providing access to clean water in the country but why get it from Food Court customers who need every centavo they can save for their various needs?

Henry Sy, the patriarch of the Sy family that owns SM, is the richest man in the country with a net worth of $20.3 billion. His SM Investments earned $6.7 billion in revenue in 2016, according to Forbes Magazine.

To get SM’s contribution to UNICEF’s Project Wash from Food Court customers smacks of corporate hypocrisy.

Which leads us to follow up the bill filed in 2015 by then Rep. Evelio Leonardia (Bacolod City) which mandates restaurants and similar establishments to serve free safe and clean drinking water to their customers regardless of whether the catered food service was for free or paid for by the customer.

Leonardia, who is now Bacolod City Mayor, noted correctly that drinking water is a basic human need and decried the practice of some food establishments and eateries not to serve drinking water and “Worse, they would yet sell this (water) their customers.” 

Maybe, a congressman who really cares about the common man could refile this bill?

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Blog: www.ellentordesillas.com
Email: ellentordesillas@gmail.com

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.