CSR efforts focus on disaster response and management

In 2011, The House of Representatives approved the Corporate Social Responsibility Act of 2011, institutionalizing corporate social responsibility of both domestic and foreign corporations.

Rep. Diosdado Arroyo (2nd District, Camarines Sur) authored the law aimed to “foster sustainable economic development and environment protection by encouraging corporate social responsibility (CSR) of business organizations, whether single proprietorship, partnership or corporation.”

"All business organizations established and operating under Philippine laws, whether domestic or foreign, are encouraged to observe CSR or the commitment of business to contribute on a voluntary basis, to sustainable economic development by working with relevant stakeholders to improve their lives in ways that are good for business, a sustainable development agenda and society at large," Arroyo said.

Arroyo further explained that CSR-related activities shall include, but not be limited to charitable programs and projects; scientific research; youth and sports development; cultural and educational promotion; services to veterans and senior citizens; social welfare; environmental sustainability; health development; disaster relief assistance and employee and employer related CSR activities.

Co-author Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (2nd District, Pampanga), said all contributions or gifts actually paid or made to accredited donee institutions by the corporation shall be fully deducted in the computation of their taxable income.

Initially, the business sector were not fully agreeable to the law, raising the concerns of small and medium enterprises that may find compliance difficult given their limited operations and resources.  However, in the aftermath of Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), the business sector immediately responded not only in pulling resources to provide immediate relief to the survivors but also to organize and synchronize CSR initiatives to address the multi-faceted and complex challenge of disaster recovery and reconstruction.

With Typhoon Yolanda, the government estimated a total damage and loss at $12.9 billion.  The super typhoon left the country with 4 million displaced and more than 6,000 in fatalities.

In response to the government's call for the private business sector to play a major role in the rebuilding effort in the Central Visayas region, the Philippine Disaster Recovery Foundation (PDRF) was created as a structural mechanism that “will facilitate the large, coordinated and unified effort of the business community to handle the whole spectrum of disaster management,” PDRF president Rene S. Meily said.

International aid poured into the country for
Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) victims
"It became clear in the discussions that there is a need for the private sector to actually invest in an institution like the PDRF and invest in a big way," said Rafael C. Lopa, executive director of the Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP).  As its partner, PBSP led a fund raising road show as well as sought direct investments in business solutions that would provide sustainable solutions to the rebuilding efforts.

According to PDRF, the five key sectors for early recovery efforts are shelter, livelihood, education, environment and water, infrastructure, sanitation and health.

"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 by PDRF co-chairman Manuel V. Pangilinan. He also chairs Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co (PLDT) and Metro Pacific Investments Corp.

PDRF is also co-chaired by Ayala Corp chairman and chief executive officer Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala and Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle.

"The first order of business for the PDRF is to help re-boot the economy in the affected areas and accelerate recovery through investments in commercial operations and corporate social responsibility projects," said Guillermo Luz, co-chair for the private sector of the National Competitiveness Council.

"The whole structure is to have flexibility to move on your own so we know who’s doing what and where. We are trying to identify which areas are underserved and where are the gaps," Luz said.

PDRF is creating a Crisis Response Mapping facility to map out the ongoing commercial and CSR activities in the disaster areas. This will provide visibility on what has been accomplished and what still needs to be done and help determine how resources can be efficiently and effectively allocated. It will also help in monitoring and auditing projects on the ground.

Long-term reconstruction plans would include developing an urban planning strategy together with better climate change risk assessments to help rebuild the typhoon-hit areas.

Corporate role

Relief operations provide food, water, clothes and
medicines to victims
Helen Roeth said, author of Understanding Disaster Response and Relief needs in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan, that “corporate sector holds expertise, resources, assets, networks and innovative capacity to help provide much needed solutions for the mid- to long-term needs of communities affected by disasters. Thus, companies plays an important role to help mobilise funding and resources for medium-term rebuilding efforts and long-term recovery of livelihoods and markets.”

She identified medium-term rebuilding efforts to include disaster resiliency in rebuilding homes and infrastructures to better withstand floods and storms.  Also, mentioned are “low-cost solutions for remote areas where communities are difficult to access when impacted by a major disaster.”

For long-term recovery, Roeth said that “sources of livelihoods also need to be more resilient to ensure that development gains in poor areas are not erased by the impact of a single devastating event. This includes, for example, flood resistant crops or farmers’ access to affordable insurance and credit.”

Moreover, “disaster preparedness needs to be built into recovery efforts,” said Roeth.

In doing so, disaster preparedness does not only mean an intensive public information campaign in preparation to impending disasters.  It also highlights the importance of disaster resiliency of certain sectors like shelter and electricity. 

Architects, engineers and developers are now in a race to produce viable housing models that can withstand natural calamities like flooding, typhoons, and earthquakes.  The effort also calls for efficient use of new technologies that can build dependable shelters with long-term durability.

One such technological innovation being employed is the use of modular insulated steel housing panels.  Beda T. Mañalac, the president of My|House, said, “In My|House, we believe that steel will be the future of innovations in modular building technology. Because of technology advancements, steel products have become stronger, more affordable, lighter and more attractive—perfect for the modular building technology. This is why this modular steel building technology is fast becoming a viable alternative to traditional concrete in many markets.”

Steel sandwich panels have a special powder paint coating to keep them rustproof for years.  The My|House steel structure strength is certified to withstand strong winds, typhoons, earthquakes, and to be fire- and pest-resistant.

Electricity is also an urgent need by survivors of calamities.  “One of the most recurring issues aside from shelter was electricity,” said Gil Arevalo, Communication with Disaster Affected Communities (CDAC) officer for the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA).

The need to climate-proof the energy sector is encapsulated in the government’s blueprint for recovery in the so-called Reconstruction Assistance on Yolanda (RAY) plan.

Given the current state of the energy sector, the said task is going to be difficult, according to experts.  “The main challenge in building a disaster-resilient energy sector is financial,” said Michael Abundo, a research fellow at the Energy Research Institute at the Nanyang Technological Institute in Singapore.

This calls for public and private investment in developing renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, and geothermal is critical in creating an energy sector that is resilient to natural disaster. Abunda said that “these renewable energy sources can serve as alternative or complementary sources of energy.”

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