Yolanda stories from EDC
BREAKTHROUGH - Elfren S. Cruz (The Philippine Star) - February 19, 2015 - 12:00am

The story of the massive destruction brought by Typhoon Yolanda and the remarkable comeback story of the devastated areas has largely disappeared from the headlines of Philippine media. Our media commentators with their voracious appetites for the latest scandals, fact or contrived, have moved on to the next topic.

The visit of Pope Francis to Leyte, even for a brief period, reminds us that the typhoon which hit our country 15 months ago continues to capture international attention. There is still much to be done.

But it is also important we are all aware that the rehabilitation phase in the Yolanda devastated region is considered as a model by several international organizations. The Asian Development Bank has warned that it typically takes four to five years to recover from a catastrophe not even the magnitude of a Typhoon Yolanda. In Japan, after the tsunami which hit the northeastern part of that country in 2011, it took more than three years for major reconstruction to be completed. In the United States, it was only after eight years after hurricane Katrina  that the recovery and reconstruction period was considered finished. In Haiti, four years after a severe typhoon, over 200,000 people are still living in makeshift tents.

Much of the attention on the rehabilitation of Leyte and Samar has been focused on the efforts of government agencies like the Departments of Education, Social Welfare and Public Works. The contributions of local governments have been, at best, mixed in terms of successes.

While there has been public acknowledgment of the private sector, especially NGOs, it is the participation of corporations that have not been adequately recognized. Much has been written and debated about the concept of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). However, it is when disasters of the magnitude of Typhoon Yolanda occur that a company’s commitment to CSR is really tested.

The real test comes not in the willingness to donate money because that is the easiest part. But the company must accept that it is confronted with a situation where it must use its own human and intellectual resources in order to bring assistance to an environment where there is often a lack of social, physical and communications infrastructure. Business firms and non-governmental organizations need a model, or at the very least, a case study on how to practice real CSR in Yolanda-type of situations.

It is for this reason that I would recommend the story of the Energy Development Corp. and its relief and rehabilitation efforts in Leyte as the model for companies who desire to practice pro-active CSR whenever there is another natural calamity.

The EDC is a Filipino company which is one of the world’s largest producers of geothermal energy. Its largest geothermal plant is located in Leyte. It is a pioneer in the renewable energy sector. It recently completed the first wind powered plant in the Philippines located in Ilocos Norte. The company has also become a multinational with investments in geothermal operations in Chile, Indonesia and Peru.

EDC’s Leyte geothermal production field straddles the Yolanda battered towns of Kananga and Ormoc City. This field is considered the world’s largest wet steamfield.

After super typhoon Yolanda hit Leyte on November 8, 2013, EDC immediately felt the need to account for its 743 employees. At the same time it had to also account for its Leyte based geothermal operations which accounted for 60% of the company’s geothermal operations and 37% of the power supply in the Visayas. This was done principally through a series of letters written by EDC president Ricardo “Ricky” Tantoco to the employees. The letters were delivered to the devastated areas either by email or were hand-carried. EDC also set up a Crisis Management Hub in Manila and ensured constant communication with its Leyte based personnel.

According to Tantoco, he decided to write the letters for those in Leyte to boost their morale and to reassure them that everyone in the company stood “shoulder to shoulder supporting them in their time of great need.” It was also decided that the company’s resources would be used to deliver relief to the surrounding communities.

According to Tantoco, within a week they were able to supply 10.7 million meals to their communities, supplied power to 2 city halls, 3 hospitals and support 80% of the water needs of Ormoc City with a population of 230,000 people.

At the same time EDC was able to return to normal operations within 4 months ahead of the original forecasted 9 to 10 months. In explaining how it was done, the EDC president definitely sounds like a corporate head when he explained: “ Our logistics backbone, supply chain team, suppliers, national footprint and crisis management team all came together and executed what I believe is the single, largest private sector-led relief effort to happen in the wake of a Philippine catastrophe.”

EDC is part of the Lopez Group of companies which has launched a program designed to assist in the rebuilding of Leyte. The group, through EDC volunteered to be a development sponsor under the Office of the Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery. Its focus is on three areas.

The first is building 74 classrooms in Ormoc, Palo and Isabel. These structures are built to withstand 250 kph wind factor. The second activity is a joint project between EDC, municipality of Kananga and TESDA for a training course that will address employment and rebuilding in the area. The final initiative is a non-profit foundation which will generate science-based solutions in the area of climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction.

For those interested in the complete story, I recommend reading the book YOLANDA: Stories of Faith, Courage and Hope from the EDC Family. This is the story of how civil society can play a crucial role in helping a nation rise from the morass of destruction.

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Memoir writing class from Where The Write Things Are

Finding Your Voice, Leaving a Legacy on February 22, 2015 at Fully Booked Bonifacio High Street with Babeth Lolarga, Baguio based poet, writer, journalist and visual artist.  For more details contact  0917-6240196 or email writethingsph@gmail.com

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Email: elfrencruz@gmail.com

ASIAN DEVELOPMENT BANK BABETH LOLARGA COMPANY EDC LEYTE TANTOCO TYPHOON YOLANDA YOLANDA
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