When local cigarette maker La Campana, which later became Mighty Corp., now turning 70 this 20th day of the month and remarkably going strong, responded to allegations regarding its business practices, it did not only answer its rivals’ odious and malicious allegations point-by-point, but also rightfully played the nationalist card.
Why not? It’s the only Filipino-owned cigarette company in the Philippines with no foreign partners, no expensive expat workers in its factories and offices, and pride itself as the firm with no outward remittances of income to pay royalties, existing much longer than most of the top local and multinational tobacco firms operating in the country.
As Irving Berlin once said, “A Filipino who truly possesses a nationalist bent follows the country’s laws and performs his/her duties and responsibilities as a decent citizen, like paying the correct taxes.”
It is also truly a Filipino boon if the company plays fair, creates jobs and generates activities that yield multiplier effects on the economy, and gives the government its rightful due.
Its giant multinational rivals often asked: Is Mighty not an illicit trader or tax evader?
Well, the burden of proof is on those who accused and spite it, not the other way around. To date, none of its detractors has filed a case against Mighty. Neither has the government charged or imposed a fine on it.
Indeed, Mighty’s official multibillion-peso tax records are verifiable with the Bureau of Internal Revenue and the Bureau of Customs.
Mighty traces its beginning to La Campana Fabrica de Tabacos Inc., which was established by Wong Chu King and his partners Ong Lowa, Baa Dy and Ong Pay, as World War II approached to an end in 1945.
Undeterred by the devastation of war, they built their first factory that year on Tayabas Street, Manila, and produced native cigarettes. La Campana then specialized in Philippine-style cigars, known as matamis and regaliz. These two brands were made from a blend of dark, air-cured Philippine tobaccos sourced from Cagayan and Isabela provinces in Northern Philippines.
In 1948 they established their second factory in Pasong Tamo, Makati. Acquisition began on 1951 of the present site of the company head office at 39 Sultana Street, Makati, Rizal, which is now 9110 Sultana Street, Olympia, Makati City.
In 1963 Wong Chu King founded the Tobacco Industries of the Philippines and, in 1995, transferred its manufacturing operation in a 9-hectare property in Baranggay Tikay, Malolos, Bulacan, as the high “labor-cost” in Makati City continued to increase.
The years 1965 to 1982 were, however, difficult for the company but, through the perseverance and ingenuity of Wong Chu King, it was able to reestablish its niche. In 1985 Mighty was set up to produce low-priced, aromatic and smooth-blend brands. La Campana, meanwhile, expanded and cornered the native tobacco industry by buying the trademarks from Alhambra Industries, its main competitor that produced La Dicha, Rosalina and Malaya.
Between 2001 and 2007, the company expanded with the creation of its own filter-rod production; the building of its American blended filtered cigarettes; the acquisition of its first Protos machine to boost production; the modernization and upgrading of its entire Lamina and Stem lines; the purchase of its first modern GD packing machine that turn the firm into a fully integrated production facility in its Bulacan complex; and the first company that set up closed-circuit television cameras to closely monitor its operations in compliance with the Bureau of Internal Revenue requirements.
WongChuKing remained active in the management and day-to-day operations of the company until his death in August 1987. The board of trustees is now headed by his widow, Nelia D. Wongchuking, a philanthropist, who sits as chairman of the board, together with their children Helen Wongchuking-Chua, Marietta Wongchuking-Co Chien, Alexander D. Wongchuking. Edilberto Adan, a retired lieutenant general of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, is the president, while retired regional trial court Judge Oscar P. Barrientos sits as the executive vice president.
Economy of scales
Mighty produces 12 brands, competing in both high- and low-end variants against its multinational and monopolist rivals.
If its rivals often wondered how it can sell its products cheaply, it’s because of its excellent practice in the economy of scales, which means, among other microeconomic variables, the reduction in the per-unit cost of production as the volume of production increases.
Corporate social responsibility
Mighty maintains its own CSR program anchored on charity and cultural work mainly through the Wong Chu King Foundation that is managed by the children, their relatives and volunteers. Lately, it granted 200 scholarships to the country’s deserving dependents and beneficiaries of the tobacco growers.
The foundation works closely with religious, educational and non-governmental organizations, and has donated immensely to restore historical churches and those that were damaged by the recent typhoons.
In essence, Mighty proudly represents itself as a nationalist beacon of hope for others competing in modern business environment largely dominated by monopolists and other foreign economic interests.