A week shy from Christmas, the devastation wrought by super typhoon Odette has leveled large parts of the central and southern Philippines, with several regions placed under a state of calamity.
However, the lack of communications within the affected regions and the damaged roads between the various towns have made the urgent distribution of assistance an enormous challenge. This prompted businesses and NGO leaders to collaborate to help get the communities back on their feet, as well as to form strategic responses for future calamities.
Bro. Henry Yunez, Country CEO of the humanitarian organization Buddhist Compassion Tzu Chi Foundation Philippines, welcomed the “chance to connect to these groups.”
Since the clearing of the weather which has allowed volunteers and rescue missions to enter the affected regions, Tzu Chi has visited nine municipalities in Bohol and 15 in Southern Leyte.
The foundation has sent several gallons of water and medicines to these provinces, while looking for more generators that can help in the pumping of water.
There are also plans to distribute rice to around 20,000 families after December 26.
When the Philippines was struck in 2013 by Yolanda, one the strongest typhoons in history, Tzu Chi’s response to the relief operations was considered to be one of the most impactful by civil society and government.
Beyond the collection and transportation of relief goods for the Odette victims, help is also needed for “heavy equipment and the construction side of things,” said Amor Maclang, Digital Pilipinas Convenor.
A more “participative and transparent” collaboration of partners can tap fast-rising technology like fintech, e-commerce, and logistics to “move money faster” to the recipients who need them the most.
Digital Pilipinas, a movement which addresses business and social challenges through technological adoption, has helped the Tzu Chi Foundation previously “even before Odette, to tech up their organization,” said Maclang. “Most importantly, we can leverage technology to show transparency of where the money is going.”
Various businesses represented during the webinar are already helping out in the relief efforts.
Gladys Pascual, Etiqa Head of Strategy and Transformation, said their program EtiqaCares is supporting the rehabilitation programs.
Kim Lato, Founder of Kimstore, is opening their platform to collaborate with the Tzu Chi Foundation to launch a fundraiser.
Coins.PH CEO Nauman Mustafa shared that “instead of buying Christmas gifts for our partners, we will be donating instead.”
Even those struck by Typhoon Odette themselves are organizing relief operations.
Roy Miclat, President of 1 Cooperative Insurance System of the Philippines, said his team is serving “in the remote areas, even though hundreds of our members have been affected by Odette.”
Meanwhile, in response to concerns about restoring communications and internet connectivity, Yoly Crisanto, Globe SVP and Chief Sustainability Officer, said the telecom giant is “doing what we can to make sure all the provinces struck by Odette become online and connected again.”
“The challenge of our time is what are we going to do to become better the next time we are faced with the same situation,” she added.
Marco Santos, representing the Mapua University and the Yuchengco group, said the country can prepare the future architects, engineers, and other professionals with the knowledge to create resilient structures against calamities. He described it as “producing people who are ready for the job. We produce good engineers. Our first patent is called Project Usher and it enables us to monitor buildings during an earthquake.”