Response to crisis

FILIPINO WORLDVIEW - Roberto R. Romulo - The Philippine Star
Response to crisis
Hans Sy, Ramon Ang, Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, Lance Gokongwei

The tragic manner in which President Duterte is vilified in social media has to stop. The Facebook video featuring him with the Singapore Prime Minister Lee should be removed. Clearly, the President is not the great communicator (a la Reagan) nor is his spokesman. Hopefully that will be resolved soon. Boo Chanco’s column “Adults in the room” was painfully true.

But all of us have to act as adults also. We have a solemn obligation to help the nation, our countrymen and the President as we go through this COVID-19 pandemic.

Adult responses  from business

I am pleased to cite exemplary corporate responses:  SM Prime, San Miguel Corp., Ayala Group and Gokongwei Group. 

1. Hans Sy of SM Prime has pledged P100 million aid for government hospitals that are in serious need of supplies and personal protective equipment. (PPE) Assistance has also been extended to PGH and RITM for their urgent needs and for improving their laboratory testing capacity. To improve availability of tests, SM has reached out to Manila Healthtek to distribute 20,000 testing kits for free to government hospitals, once approved for use. The SM Supermalls have also announced that it will waive rentals to all tenants nationwide from March 16 to April 14. This will allow tenants some relief so they may, in turn, lend more assistance to their employees during the quarantine period.

2. Ramon Ang announced that they are working on distributing donations to poor communities where daily paid workers have been especially hard hit. “We will operate our food facilities 24/7. This isn’t about making profits.” Ang added that he was given assurance that government through the AFP, DILG and LGUs will lend assistance in securing its food assistance to allow for continuous operation and supply of raw materials to provide food for the country.

Ang also announced that SMC (Ginebra San Miguel) will produce 70 percent ethyl alcohol and will distribute the product free to communities. Aside from ethyl alcohol the company will donate to LGU’s its own brand of disinfectant powder.

3. The Gokongwei Group has created a P100-million fund to help battle the COVID-19 pandemic. The Gokongwei Brothers Foundation will provide urgently needed PPE such as surgical masks for healthcare frontliners as well as rapid test kits. The UP Medical Foundation and PGH Medical Foundation are among the select institutions.

Robinsons Land Corp. has agreed to waive rental charges for all non-operational tenants of its various malls during the period of the Luzon-wide community quarantine. Cebu Pacific has been enabling thousands of passengers to rebook their flights until June 30 or place the ticket in a travel fund to be issued for future travel. All Robinson Retail Holdings establishments have remained open to serve the needs of Filipino consumers on a limited time period.

4. The Zobel brothers, Jaime Augusto and Fernando have announced a P2.4-billion COVID-19 response package for businesses within the Ayala Group eco-system, including income support and rent condonation for tenants. Ayala’s package consists of wages, bonuses, leave conversions and loan deferments, primarily for the extended workforce of partner-employers so they may continue to be paid for the duration of the quarantine period.

Globe Telecoms has earmarked P270 million for its retail store support staff and vendor partners, while all other Ayala companies will reserve another P130 million in personnel-related financial support. 

For its own employees, Ayala will continue to provide salary continuance and financial support where possible as most of these employees will get their mid-year bonuses, normally paid in April, starting today through the end of March. 

Ayala has also postponed or delayed employee loan payments due to the Ayala Multi-Purpose Cooperative and have introduced special financial assistance programs at subsidized rates.

I expect more announcements will be made by the private sector in the coming weeks.

Concern for employees

Ayala Group should be commended for their concern of their employees. I hope that will set a trend for others to follow during this crisis. Abroad for example: Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg announced that all 45,000 employees are getting $1,000 in cash to help them during the corona virus outbreak. The bonuses will be distributed in April.



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