Super typhoon Odette has demolished major portions of the middle and southern Philippines, putting six regions in a state of disaster: Mimaropa, Western Visayas, Central Visayas, Eastern Visayas, Northern Mindanao, and Caraga.
However, because of a lack of communication within the impacted areas and impassable highways connecting the several towns, distributing aid quickly has proven to be a huge issue.
This triggered a call from and for business and non-profit leaders to work together to help communities recover and develop smart responses to future disasters.
Bro. Henry Yunez, Country CEO of the Buddhist Compassion Tzu Chi Foundation Philippines, expressed gratitude for the “opportunity to interact with these groups,” adding that his organization welcomes volunteers and resources from all sectors because “there is no religion involved in what we are doing.”
Tzu Chi has visited nine towns in Bohol and 15 in Southern Leyte since the weather has cleared, allowing volunteers and rescue missions to enter the devastated areas. They’ve supplied thousands of liters of water and medicines to these areas, and they’re seeking for more generators to assist with water pumping. Rice will be distributed to around 20,000 families shortly after December 26.
Technology and transparency
When the Philippines was hit by Yolanda in 2013, one of the most powerful typhoons in history, Tzu Chi’s response to relief efforts was hailed as one of the most effective by civil society and government.
Aside from collecting and transporting relief materials for the Odette victims, Amor Maclang, Digital Pilipinas Convenor, added that “big equipment and the building side of things” are also needed. A more “participative and transparent” collaboration of partners can take advantage of rapidly evolving technology such as fintech, e-commerce, and logistics to “transfer money faster” to those who need it most. Digital Pilipinas, a movement that uses technology to solve commercial and social problems, has previously assisted the Tzu Chi Foundation in “teching up their organization” “even before Odette,” according to Maclang. “Most significantly, we can use technology to demonstrate transparency in how money is spent.”
Industry experts from the real estate, logistics, construction, financial services, payments, and retail spaces attended Tzu Chi Foundation Philippine and Digital Pilipinas’ recent conference, “Typhoon Odette Relief Briefing and Response Planning.” It promoted ‘Bayanihan’ and a whole-of-nation, whole-of-society strategy to dealing with the Odette-affected areas.
The “meeting is not just for awareness, but for support, cooperation, and unity,” according to Cherrie Rose Ang, Admin Senior Officer of Tzu Chi’s Admin and Volunteer Affairs Department. Filipinos are staying in temporary shelters or evacuation centers days after Odette made nine landfalls across Visayas and Mindanao. “Children are walking out to the streets to ask for help,” Ang said of the condition reported by their volunteers. People are frantically trying to salvage anything they can from their damaged homes.”
Several of the companies featured in the webinar have already volunteered to help with the rescue attempts. According to Gladys Pascual, Etiqa’s Head of Strategy and Transformation, EtiqaCares is assisting with rehabilitation programs. Kim Lato, the founder of Kimstore, is teaming up with the Tzu Chi Foundation to arrange a fundraising campaign on their website. Meanwhile, Nauman Mustafa, CEO of Coins.PH, declared that “rather than buying Christmas gifts for our partners, we will instead contribute.”
Even those devastated by Typhoon Odette are organizing relief initiatives. Despite the fact that Odette has affected hundreds of our members, Roy Miclat, President of 1 Cooperative Insurance System of the Philippines, stated that his staff is serving “in the remote areas.”
Meanwhile, in response to concerns about restoring communications and internet connectivity, Globe SVP and Chief Sustainability Officer Yoly Crisanto stated that the telecom giant is “doing everything we can to ensure that all of the provinces struck by Odette become online and connected again,” and that climate change will only lead to more and stronger typhoons, particularly for vulnerable countries like the Philippines. “The challenge of our time,” she said, “is what we will do to improve the next time we face the same situation.”
Miclat agreed that forward-looking activities “should not focus on one-time activities, like donation drives.”
One solution is the collaboration between Coins.ph’s Mustafa and Donna May Lina, Director and Executive Board of the OneLGC Lina Group of Companies. Both companies will be tokenizing the efforts for tree planting to better encourage Filipinos to take part in the rehabilitation of the environment. With the Lina organization’s expertise in disaster preparedness, they are looking to onboard more people who can become better equipped when the next disaster strikes.
According to Marco Santos, representing Mapua University and the Yuchengco group, the country can prepare future architects, engineers, and other professionals with the knowledge to build resilient structures against natural disasters. He described it as “creating job-ready individuals.” We produce competent engineers. Our first patent, Project Usher, allows us to monitor buildings during an earthquake.”
Technology will be critical not only for the operations in response to Typhoon Odette, but also in the future. “We can align all of our groups to make technology and systems relevant,” said Georgia Martelino, Philanthropist Lead at Microsoft Philippines. “Let us pool our resources and brand it as a Tzu Chi platform so that everyone can use it for free.” We can begin by focusing on digital literacy.”
Tzu Chi Foundation Philippines is assisting in the rehabilitation, recovery, economic, and educational resumption of the areas affected by Typhoon Odette by leveraging its global network of volunteers and employees. They involve the communities in various operations, which also provides them with temporary sources of income.
“There is nothing we cannot overcome with love in our hearts.” “We can come together and rebuild,” said Anton Lim, the OIC of Tzu Chi Zamboanga Liaison Office.
Maclang stated that the collaboration will continue because it is “not just about Odette, but about humanity.” There are plans for Tzu Chi, Digital Pilipinas, and the other companies to hold more meetings and develop more action plans as the situation develops.
The Tzu Chi Foundation Philippines is open for donations which can be sent through the following: Account Name: Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation Philippines; BDO Account number: 011978001800; Metrobank Account number: 163-3-16307190-9. Send soft copy of deposit slips at firstname.lastname@example.org or through Viber/Line/WeChat: +639672110940.