Nov 182013

Millions of Filipinos have been left homeless by Typhoon Yolanda, while the cost of the damage has been initially placed at more than P10 billion – and it’s obvious that rehabilitation will require massive resources and gargantuan efforts. The death toll continues to rise even as we write, but it’s quite clear to everyone that the focus should be on helping the survivors who are in need of food, water, medicines, clothes and shelter.

Despite the devastation, Filipinos are heartened by the compassion and support coming from many local companies who are all stepping up to the plate, initiating their own fund drives, forsaking planned Christmas celebrations, and conducting relief operations. Major businesses are displaying corporate social responsibility (CSR) through corporate foundations, among them the Aboitiz group which initially raised P30 million. Aboitiz Equity Ventures president Jon Aboitiz told me they have a target of raising P200 million and that they are now “close to it,” realizing that there is much to be done but that we will be able to do it as a nation.

Another conglomerate that has also been in the thick of relief efforts is the SM Group that has allocated P100 million in calamity funds for the rebuilding of homes, community centers and schools in disaster affected areas most particularly in Tacloban, Samar, Ormoc, Capiz, Iloilo, Cebu and Bohol that also suffered from a 7.2 magnitude earthquake. The SM Group via SM Cares is doing a fantastic job, having sent over 50,000 relief packs and turning their malls all over the country into drop-off points for relief donations, while accounts in both BDO and China Bank have been opened for cash donations.

Judging from the response in social media, the Manny V. Pangilinan (MVP) Group is turning out to be the most admired and appreciated of all companies whose “holistic manner” in providing help has raised the standard for CSR and can very well serve as a model for other organizations with the strength and resources of each company combining to speed up relief and rehabilitation efforts.

For instance, Philex’s experienced miners are at the forefront of search-and-rescue operations, while Smart/PLDT provides vital communications link via satellite phones and 4G wireless technology. Maynilad’s water bottles and water treatment machines are critical to keep survivors alive, and the same goes for the hospital group that sent personnel and medical emergency kits for the wounded. Meantime, Meralco is working for the swift restoration of power facilities, with         soup kitchens and relief packs continually delivered to thousands of families. MVP is also utilizing personal resources to aid survivors, and we’re told that he intends to buy another helicopter for permanent deployment in the Visayas during disasters. Apparently, the Tulong Kapatid team was ready with hundreds of relief packs the day after the typhoon and were negotiating with the Air Force for accommodation in the C-130s, but they were told that DSWD is the priority.  Obviously, MVP wants to make sure that relief drops are made when needed so what better way than to have your own “air force”?

Relief in a (Shelter)Box

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A lot of groups are pitching in with relief efforts but not many are aware of ShelterBox, an international relief group that sends tents, blankets, water purifier kits, tools, cooking equipment and other items all packed in one huge green box (seen in photo from ShelterBox site). The organization was founded in 2000 in Cornwall, UK to help during disasters like tsunamis, typhoons and earthquakes, with relief boxes first sent in 2001 for victims of the earthquake in Gujarat, India.

ShelterBox has since established offices in many countries like the US including the Philippines, with an initial 800 tents and boxes airlifted to Cebu City with 500 more on their way. According to ShelterBox, stocks are ready and waiting in Dubai, Melbourne, Australia and Kuala Lumpur with more boxes being packed in Cornwall.

Anderson Cooper’s powerful appeal

If you haven’t seen CNN broadcast journalist Anderson Cooper’s powerful tribute to Filipinos for showing remarkable strength and resilience in the wake of the storm, then we strongly recommend that you check out this link Everyone who has watched Cooper’s Reporter’s Notebook account titled “Finding strength after the storm” is moved – just as the journalist was obviously moved – by the sight of the overwhelming devastation – with survivors in pitiful conditions and trying to make some sense of their lives amidst the ruin and the rubble.

Like many foreigners, Cooper is amazed – and encouraged by the Filipinos’ ability to smile, to stand up and move forward. “With aid and assistance, compassion and care, this place, these people… they will make it through… They’re bowed, perhaps tired and traumatized, but they are not broken,” the CNN anchor said, thanking Filipinos for showing the rest of the world “how to live.”

Spy tidbit

In what people are describing as a positive move, President Noynoy Aquino met with Tacloban Mayor Alfred Romualdez the other night to see what the local government needs in terms of logistics and relief/rehabilitation requirements, giving instructions to administration officials on what should be done to maximize and expedite efforts. Apparently, PNoy is also trying to patch up the friction between DILG Secretary Mar Roxas and the Tacloban Mayor over disaster relief efforts.

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