Besieged by the COVID-19 pandemic and pushed into adversity, the current circumstance has stimulated a surge in patriotic and emphatic response from the private sector and civil society groups.
The health crisis has plunged Luzon into a 24-hour lockdown which tremendously impacts upon the livelihood of the most vulnerable sectors of society. Juxtaposed by a populist government, the full spectrum of society with all its conflicting dynamics are now trapped in an agnostic health-cum-economic predicament.
Despite persistent political undercurrents, the people are finding a long dormant spirit of caring and kindness that has been buried by the daily stresses of working for our individual goals to better our lives. This national emergency has thrown us into a unprecedented situation that has sparked an urgency for synergy and charity.
For starters, some of the country’s biggest business groups are donating generously to ease the unanticipated sufferings of the urban poor in Metro Manila. Responding to the urgency, an initial fund of over P1.5 billion was swiftly raised for door to door distribution of P1,000 grocery vouchers to more than 1 million households in the poorest communities of Mega-Manila. The first responders supporting the project as of this writing are: the Aboitiz Group, the ABS-CBN/Lopez Group, Alliance Global/Megaworld, AY Foundation and RCBC, Ayala Corp., Bench/Suyen Corp., Century Pacific, Concepcion Industrial Corp, DMCI, the Gokongwei Group of Companies/Robinsons Retail Holdings, ICTSI, Jollibee, the Leonio Group, Mercury Drug, Metrobank/GT Capital, Nutri-Asia, Oishi/Liwayway Marketing Corp., PLDT/Metro Pacific
Investments Corp., Puregold, San Miguel Corp., SM/BDO, Sunlife of Canada, and Unilab.
Project Ugnayan is essentially a fund-raising initiative that will initially collaborate with Caritas Manila’s Project Damayan and the Pantawid ng Pag-ibig program of ABS CBN. These will provide the needed ground network to efficiently distribute the gift certificates that recipients can use to purchase the goods they need in supermarkets or groceries accessible to them. Caritas has started distribution in four pilot areas and will gear up to expand to all 677 parishes in greater Manila (regardless of religion). The Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation supports as the secretariat of the project.
Mindful of social distancing precautions, parish volunteers will distribute to each household, with the cooperation of the Philippine National Police and local barangay officials.
Jump starting this wave of benevolence was the Ayala Group’s P2.4 billion amelioration package which consists of “P1.4 billion in rent condonation for its Ayala mall merchants, P600 million for continuing salaries of construction site workers shut down in various projects of the Ayala Malls group and Makati Development Corp., P270 million for Globe Telecoms vendor partners and retail store support staff, and P10 million in financial support for personnel of other Ayala companies.”
As announced by the brothers Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, (Chairman, CEO of Ayala Corp.) and Fernando Zobel de Ayala (Ayala President), “Its employees will continue to receive salaries and financial support such as early release of mid-year bonuses. Employee loan payments have been postponed together with the release of special financial assistance programs with subsidized rates.”
Manuel V. Pangilinan (Chairman of Metro Pacific Investments Corp., MPIC) concurrently assured continued “pay and benefits, full payment of 13th month pay, no charging of work from home days to vacation or sick leave for all their employees in PLDT, Smart Communications and MPIC. Government hospitals will also get much needed support with an initial supply of 4,000 liters of alcohol and 500,000 vitamin tablets for frontline personnel.”
This new virus from China has sent the world scrambling to arrest what is now emerging as the multi-dimensional fallout that threatens to kill multitudes and impoverish millions. Crisis always has a way of bringing out the best, and the worse, in people. What we need now is for all of us to be at our best behavior and try to block off the anxieties and negativity that can cloud our better judgement. Let us support our countrymen who are now at the frontlines, our local governments, our health workers, our peacekeepers, social workers, and volunteers who must cope with the inadequacies and mortal risks of this crisis. For those who have the capacity to help, now is the time.
Victor Andres C. Manhit is the President of Stratbase ADR Institute.