Monday, October 25, 2021

Breaking Point

This is typically a column about supply chain issues, but as I write this, Metro Manila is in the middle of yet another water crisis, the second this year. With the rainy season slowly getting underway the situation has been somewhat mitigated, but still, the capital’s main water source has less water than is comfortable, and authorities don’t see the situation returning to normal for months.


Between this, the increasingly hot daytime temperatures and the stronger-than-usual storms battering us during typhoon season, it’s clear that global warming (or “global heating”, to borrow the new terminology used by British newspaper The Guardian) is starting to have more tangible impacts on our lives. Efforts, at least on the global stage, to bring attention to the causes of these problems are gaining more ground by the day. Some have called this a “climate emergency” and insist that it’s no longer enough to do the small things. Reducing plastic use can only go so far, they say; the onus is now on governments and big companies to ensure that temperature rises are controlled, if not reversed, and that means looking at every aspect of how the things we consume and rely on are produced, distributed and disposed of.


All right, yes, this is still your typical column on supply chain issues.


But then, you look at the Philippines and you realize that the situation is more complex than you thought. Yes, there are initiatives to ensure more sustainable supply chains—and this goes beyond the logistics part, impacting design, procurement and production as well—but in reality the nature of the country holds these efforts back. We’re an archipelago. We still have to rely on highly-polluting means of transport. Shifting towards less-polluting methods means shouldering a higher cost—it’s no wonder cargo by rail hasn’t quite caught on, even in Luzon, where the biggest players are.


Still, the situation is alarming. If two water crises in half a year—which impacts both quality of life and the ability of any business to best serve its customers—doesn’t trigger your concerns, the increasing temperatures should. I’ve been in the workforce for eleven years, and by sheer coincidence have worked in the same street in Ortigas for all that time. In the past couple of years walking to Megamall for lunch has become unbearable, because it’s just so hot, even when conventional wisdom (in this case, your calendar) says it shouldn’t be. What else explains that?


This is still your typical column on supply chain issues, and particularly, how the values of the best supply chains —stakeholders pulling together for a common goal—lends itself not just to running a business, but also for making lives better for everyone else. Now, with all this talk of increasing temperatures and changing weather patterns and how it tangibly affects our lives, whether you’re in Novaliches or Norzagaray, it’s time we learn these lessons once again and come together to properly discuss what can be done—what can be done beyond banning plastic straws.


It will be a long and difficult process, both having this conversation and devoting resources to finding new alternatives. How do we minimize plastic in our packaging without altering the way our products work? How do we encourage people to think more sustainably when it comes to the things they consume? Seeing posts on social media about supermarkets using banana leaves instead of plastic bags, or of shampoo being sold in bulk for as long as you have a bottle to put it in, makes you feel good—but it can, again, only go so far.


As for the government, well, perhaps it’s worth rethinking where our investments in infrastructure will be going. Yes, we need new roads. But how about a Metro Manila-wide network of drainage canals that will bring rain water straight to our water sources? It was raining particularly hard during one of our board meetings, and one director remarked that we should be wishing for the rains to go to Angat Dam. Maybe if we can collect the rainwater that falls here and somehow send it to our reservoirs, filtered and cleaned of any adverse particles.


And while we’re at it: better public transport, to discourage car use. (It’s ongoing, but much more has to be done.) More trees, not just for green bona fides, but also to ensure a comfortable temperature for everyone, particularly the most vulnerable. Maybe stricter planning rules to ensure we aren’t surrounded by glass buildings that reflect heat back to the sidewalk, making us feel even hotter. A nationwide recycling network. What did you say? It’s going to be difficult to disrupt things? This is why, more than ever, we need to come together and have that conversation.


New officers: We are happy to announce that Carlo Curay of XVC Logistics has been named as SCMAP’s new vice president. He is taking over from Clarisse Castillo, who left the board to pursue a new regional role for Johnson & Johnson. Angie Santor of Nestlé Philippines will take his place as the organization’s auditor.


Henrik Batallones is the marketing and communications executive of SCMAP. A former board director, he is also editor-in-chief of the organization’s official publication, Supply Chain Philippines. More information about SCMAP is available at



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