Rising to the challenge, valiant employees keep the petrochemicals complex going
Crisis situations bring out the selflessness and dedication of people. Such is the case with the committed men and women who currently continue to work at JG Summit Petrochemicals Group’s manufacturing complex in Batangas City.
JGSPG’s skeleton work force braves the challenges of reporting for duty during this crisis to perform the critical functions that keep the petrochemical complex running. The remarkable commitment being displayed by these personnel is a testament to their professionalism, strong belief in the mission of the company, and their personal sacrifice to help contribute and ease the disruptions in the lives of many brought about by the unfolding COVID-19 crisis.
In his message to the entire JGSPG family at the onset of the quarantine, company President and CEO Patrick Go emphasized that “the sacrifice we are making at this tumultuous period is for the good of the nation… The movement of food, water, and medicine will be impossible if we fail to supply our polyethylene and polypropylene resins to manufacturers who are also struggling to source basic raw materials and supplies. It is of national interest for us to continue to operate to support our country at this time of need.”
Many of the personnel forming the skeleton team appreciate this vital role the company has to play. For Gary Laquindanum, a manager in JGSPG’s polymer manufacturing operations, fighting COVID-19 is like solving a puzzle. Gary says that “Together with other producers of basic commodities, JGSPG is one piece of the puzzle required to fight COVID-19. Although our product is not directly used in fighting this pandemic, without packaging materials, basic goods cannot be delivered to the people.”
With the spread of the COVID-19 virus in the country, the government in early March declared a state of public health emergency, and the following week placed the entire Luzon under Enhanced Community Quarantine, which meant limiting movement of people and goods to the barest minimum.
Thanks to its dedicated employees, JGSPG’s plants are able to continuously produce and provide polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP) resins that are essential to produce needed packaging for basic necessities and emergency supplies for the general public.
For James Marco De Castro, a supervisor in the company’s Maintenance Department, it is important to ensure that his duty is adequately manned because through the Maintenance team’s efforts, the plant is able to continue to run. James explains, “We need to keep supporting plant operations and maintain our equipment in smooth running condition. As a supervisor I feel it is my duty to lead, keep their morale, and understand our role during this time.”
Joyce Biglaen, a Quality Control Analyst at JGSPG’s laboratory, has been demonstrating extraordinary courage since the quarantine was imposed by continuing to report to work. For her, JGSPG’s contribution to the nationwide response to manage the impacts of the pandemic makes her personal sacrifice worth it. “Kahit papano sa maliit na bagay, yung pagpasok at pag-aanalyze namin sa laboratory para makapagproduce pa rin ng raw materials, nakakaambag pa rin kami,” shared Joyce.
But Joyce did confess that she had reservations at first about having to continue to report for duty. Admittedly, being part of the JGSPG skeleton workforce is by no means without its own set of challenges.
During the quarantine, the usual commute to and from the JGSPG Plant has become challenging given the various checkpoints en route and strict inspections along the way. In addition, those who have continued to report to the plant have had to take on increased workloads or longer work hours to make up for the reduction in headcount due to mobility challenges. All these are on top of each employee’s concerns for their personal health and safety as they continue to go to work.
To help alleviate these challenges and concerns, JGSPG quickly mobilized additional modes of transportation to help ferry employees from various points in Batangas City to the plant and back, and also increased the number of vehicles for employee pick-up and drop-off to ensure strict social distancing is observed while in transport.
Precious Ebora, a Field Technician in the company’s polyethylene operations, shared the ordeal she went through at the start of the quarantine: “Nung una po medyo nahirapan po talaga ako dahil nung nagkaroon po ng lockdown, nawalan po ng mga byahe… Mabuti na lang po nung mga time na iyon ay may tricycle pa namang nakapag pasakay sa akin. Yung mga concerns naman ng mga katulad ko na malayo pa sa pickup point, maganda po ngayon ay may nagsusundo na po.”
JGSPG, under its “Employee Care” program, also immediately put in place necessary precautions to prevent spread of the virus within the work environment. Strict adherence to personal hygiene practices, mandatory temperature checks, and social distancing protocols are among the measures that are being implemented. To boost immunity, vitamin supplements are being supplied to the employees. Medical personnel are likewise deployed at the plant 24/7 to handle medical emergencies.
For Gary, he considers JGSPG’s initiatives to provide “a safe working environment for all employees” and implement “all applicable government protocol on flattening the curve” as part of the company’s contribution to managing the pandemic. Joyce for her part expressed confidence in what the company is doing. “Ang mga higher-ups naman ay gumagawa ng paraan para somehow ma-lessen ang takot ng mga employee katulad ko,” she said, adding “kahit yung libreng meals na-appreciate ko ’yun.”
The timing of JGSPG’s startup after undergoing turnaround maintenance could not have come at a more critical period for the country’s supply chain. As soon as production resumed in early March, deliveries of essential PE and PP resins were dispatched to packaging manufacturers around the country. The PE products manufactured by JGSPG are used for primary packaging such as bottles for alcohol, soap, disinfectant, and other essential sanitation and hygiene products; as flexible packaging for basic food supplies such as bread, noodles, and milk; and for secondary packaging such as plastic films for meat and fish and hygienic protective liners used for medical supplies. JGSPG’s PP products are used for making sacks for rice and flour, for nets for fruits and vegetables, and for hygienic packaging, such as for food and hygiene products, and of personal protective equipment such as face masks.
Patrick Go, in his message to the JGSPG family, honored the sacrifices of the skeleton team in continuing to operate the plant despite these trying circumstances. He declares, “This sacrifice that we are all making will go to help our kababayans who need us to be strong and dependable at this time of need. We must organize ourselves to work as a cohesive unit and in our own way contribute whatever we can to keep our nation strong.”
James Ropper “JR” Alborte, supervisor for Employee and Labor Relations, is motivated by the company’s leadership. “What keeps me moving are the strong values I learned from my superiors, the compassion as we practice our vocation with love… that we are in this together.” JR affirms, “Human Resources’ role is very important in these trying times, it is the vocation I have committed to—to be of service to our employees, and to the company, not only in good times, but most especially in these challenging times.”
James of the Maintenance Department professes that he feels “proud during this time that our team is able to come to work every day despite the challenges. I know this sacrifice is very small compared to the true ‘front liners’ in the medical facilities, but I think somehow we are helping them.”
Precious captures the spirit of unity of the entire skeleton team in saying, “I’m motivated po kasi my colleagues and superiors ang nag-iinspire sa akin, na pumapasok po sila.”
Summing it up, Gary says, “I firmly believe that our role as a producer of raw materials for basic commodities is important and I commit to operating the plant for as long as we can.”