Big businesses in the Philippines are the first to respond to disasters more often than not making up for the inadequacies of the government.
This was first seen a couple of years ago during the great floods of Ondoy that highlighted the absence of government presence in the initial relief operations-these were all done by the private sector.
After typhoon Yolanda struck, conglomerates set up a more organized and sustainable way of helping disaster victims.
Guillermo Luz, coordinator of the newly-reorganized Philippine Disaster Recovery Foundation (PDRF) said business has realized that while corporate social responsibility (CSR) is important during disasters, it provides only a part of the solution. He said while CSR measures ( giving out food, medicine packets to victims) are oftentimes the quickest way of responding to disasters, these are not the only way.
“Re-investment in the restoration of commercial operations represents a far larger investment than CSR. It can also have far larger impact than CSR,” Luz said.
This is why, according to Luz, the PDRF is working on institutionalizing activities that go well beyond CSR: better urban planning and disaster-preparedness.
After being designated as the country’s permanent private sector vehicle for disaster management, PDRF jumpstarted programs for the rehabilitation of the communities affected by the recent Super Typhoon Yolanda in Eastern Visayas.
Generally, CSR efforts are done individually by companies and most of them are targetted to programs/beneficiaries that are related to their businesses. But in the case of the PDRF, responses are done in coordinated and targeted manner to create a larger impact to communities.
Luz said PDRF’s contribution in the case of Yolanda is divided into two types of response. The first is CSR and the second is in commercial operations. For CSR, companies are being asked to make contributions in five sectors : education (basically school repairs and construction), shelter (permanent homes), livelihood, water/sanitation/health, and environment.
Still working together with the government through the Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery, these projects will be distributed over 24 geographical areas affected by Yolanda, Luz said.
“The approach here differs from the past in the sense that these are more coordinated and mapped so that companies and the government can keep closer track of where projects are located,” Luz said.
For commercial operations, Luz said companies will also be making their investments to get their own businesses restored and moving in the same areas. These may be in such sectors as power and energy, retail/commercial, banking, fuel, telecommunications and other businesses.
When business resumes, communities return to normalcy faster. Commercial operations naturally will have longer, more sustainable impact because they will represent larger investments than CSR and will generate renewed economic activity.
In the case of Yolanda, the assistance programs will be limited to the reconstruction period, which is estimated to last around two to three years.
While the assumption is that government has the responsibility to provide aid and private sector is just there to help, these groups share similar approaches to disaster responses.
In the case of Yolanda, Luz said PDRF’s approach is similar to government’s in the sense that both of us are focused on the same sectors, education, shelter, livelihood, and health and on the same geographical areas (e.g., Samar, Leyte, Northern Cebu, Northern Negros, Northern Panay, Coron/Busuanga).
But he said the approach is also different in the sense that the government will provide more of the public infrastructure and other public buildings while the private sector will concentrate on some public utilities such as telecommunication services and power and commercial operations.
To address specific needs of disaster-hit areas, Luz said businesses have provided relief supplies across disaster-affected areas as well as lent their transport resources and equipment for distribution (e.g., planes, trucks, ships, etc).
He said employees have also helped packing and distributing relief goods. They have also donated cash to relief organizations.
Right now, Luz said PDFR is in the process of trying to collect the data so it can get a complete inventory of these contributions.
“These contributions have helped alleviate the suffering of victims but have not yet brought back normalcy to lives,” Luz said..
PDRF was initially formed in the aftermath of typhoons Frank, Ondoy, and Pepeng in 2009 but following the earthquake in Bohol and Cebu, the fighting in Zamboanga City and the devastation caused by Typhoon Yolanda in the Visayas regions, PDRF became the primary vehicle of the private sector for coordinating its efforts in disaster preparedness and response.
PDRF is composed of leaders of some of the country’s largest private corporations and leading NGOs. Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT), Ayala Corp. Metro Pacific Investments Corp. (MPIC), and Aboitiz Equity Ventures Inc. in fact spearheaded the establishment of a permanent private sector vehicle for an organized response in times of natural calamities after Super Typhoon Yolanda.
“Recent events have highlighted the fact that the Philippines is one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world. We must become much more adept at dealing with calamities – both natural and man-made. The private sector has an important role to play in making our country more resilient,” said Manuel Pangilinan, chairman of MPIC and PLDT and who co-chairs of PDRF.
Business organizations which are also taking part in these efforts are the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI), Makati Business Club (MBC), Management Association of the Philippines (MAP), Bankers’ Association of the Philippines (BAP), non-government organizations (NGOs) to have a better organized private sector response during disasters.
Ayala chairman and chief executive officer Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala are co-chairs PDRF with Pangilinan while Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle is also co-chairman of the body.
Other members of the PDRF board include Aboitiz Equity Ventures president Erramon Aboitiz, Energy Development Corp. chairman Federico Lopez, Shell country chairman Edgar Chua, Magsaysay Maritime Corp. president and chief executive officer Doris Magsaysay-Ho, Land Bank of the Philippines president Gilda Pico, and Philippine Investment Management Inc. president Ramon del Rosario Jr.
Just more than two weeks after Typhoon Yolanda, SM Prime Holdings, Inc. (SMPHI) and the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR) hosted for the second time, the Top Leaders Forum in a very timely topic: resiliency.
The Top Leaders Forum held at the SMX Convention Center last November 22 gathered over 30 CEOs and top managers across different sectors and industries in the country and talked about the new challenges presented by a steadily and dangerously changing climate to businesses.
With the theme “Increasing Private Sector Resilience Through Informed Business Practices and Investment – Incentives for Resilient Investment , the Forum became a platform for SMPHI and UNISDR to call on the private sector to proactively invest in disaster resiliency.
Hans Sy, president of SMPHI said investments in disaster resilience among private companies is now a “humanitarian imperative” as local communities struggle to prepare for natural calamities.
“Disaster resilience is no longer prioritized only to protect commercial interests. It has now become bigger than that,” said Sy, who represents the country as member of the UNISDR Private Sector Advisory Group (UNISDR PSAG). “It has become a humanitarian imperative and a commitment to contribute to economic sustainability of the communities beyond our corporate walls.”
According to Sy, heavy investments in disaster resilience not only ensure the longevity of company-owned assets, but also the safety of communities where the company operates. Case in point is the water catchment system built in select SM malls to collect rain water and help prevent flash flooding.
Moreover, Sy pointed to SMPHI’s own experience in constructing shopping centers such as SM Marikina and SM Muntinlupa that are designed to resist natural disasters. “We adopted different aspects of disaster risk management, employed competent approach to sustainable operations and put business continuity plans in place,” he said.
Sy said the impact of disasters has become an issue of growing concern not only in the developing countries like the Philippines but all throughout the world.