Philippines’ biggest firms rush to help quake victimsBy Daxim L. Lucas, Nikko Dizon
Philippine Daily Inquirer
A day after a powerful earthquake struck Bohol and Cebu provinces, the country’s largest corporations rushed into action to deliver aid to devastated areas.
But in addition to the usual corporate donations of relief goods, one conglomerate on Wednesday said it would devote resources to help rehabilitate several centuries-old churches in both provinces damaged by the 7.2-magnitude temblor.
“Our first concerns are the needs of the victims. We are helping provide immediate relief,” San Miguel Corp. (SMC) president Ramon Ang said in a statement. “But we also would like to play a sustainable role in the rehabilitation efforts and not just immediate recovery.”
He pointed out that the Spanish-era churches in Bohol and Cebu—some of the country’s oldest religious edifices—“are part of our heritage and carry significant historical value.”
“We are open to do our part in supporting any efforts to rehabilitate these sites,” Ang said, adding that the aid would come in the form of financial support and materials.
Companies under the SMC group have also begun to mobilize to help affected communities in Luzon and Mindanao.
Petron Corp., through its Petron Foundation, is using its gasoline stations as drop off points for donations.
Flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) activated its Humanitarian Cargo Grant program and has begun accepting donations to be airlifted for free to Tagbilaran City in Bohol and Cebu.
Under this program, the carrier will transport high-value goods such as medicines, food and water, hygiene products, clothing and other basic necessities such as mosquito nets and repellents, flashlights and radios.
“These items would be prioritized over rice, noodles, sardines, and other items either already distributed by local government units or available near the calamity-stricken areas, to maximize cargo space,” the company said in a statement.
Donors and volunteer groups may reach PAL Foundation through Tel No. 8512980 or 8558000 local 2653, to avail themselves of the grant.
Free air travel
The airline will also provide free air transportation to certified volunteer doctors and medical specialists participating in relief efforts.
Besides PAL, Cebu Pacific has agreed to accommodate rescue and relief cargo “for free,” Wyrlou Samodio of the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) told the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC).
The Cebu Pacific management informed the CAB that the airline had a tie-up with a TV network’s relief operations, and the “free cargo” could be coursed through the network.
Samodio also said PAL, Cebu Pacific and Air Asia Zest, the three airlines operating in Cebu and Bohol, could mount additional flights and their request would be approved by CAB right away.
“The flights can accommodate the volunteer responders of the government. It is still a commercial flight,” he said.
Some agencies, particularly the Department of Health (DOH), encountered problems in transporting much-needed medical supplies and equipment to Bohol and Cebu after their personnel tried to take commercial flights.
Dr. Arnel Rivera of the DOH Health Emergency Management Office told the NDRRMC meeting that the volunteer doctors were unable to take their flights because they were being charged by the airlines for their excess baggage.
The extra weight came from more than 200 cot beds and folding beds as well as tents for patients who had to be moved out of the damaged hospitals.
Rivera said Cebu and Bohol had requests for volunteer orthopedic surgeons, anesthesiologists and nurses.
There were also requests for casts, Rivera said, adding he was assuming that most of the injured sustained bone fractures. “These are our priorities now,” he said.
The team of specialists came from East Avenue Medical Center and Quirino Memorial Hospital.
Psychologists and nurses from the National Center for Mental Health would also be going to the hard-hit provinces, Rivera said.
Nonetheless, the local chapters of the Philippine Medical Association have begun to mobilize their doctors as well to assist in the medical needs of the earthquake victims.
NDRRMC Executive Director Eduardo del Rosario directed the Philippine Air Force to accommodate the needs of the medical personnel in their C-130 flights. One C-130 is set to fly to Bohol and Cebu today.
“Time is of the essence,” Del Rosario said.
He also explained that in times of extreme emergencies, “the government will enforce that these commercial transportation will be utilized by government.”
“But since this (earthquake) is more or less a manageable emergency, we are actually getting help from the private sector just like what PAL and Cebu Pacific did, they are offering to help free services for cargo,” Del Rosario said.
For its part, Ayala-controlled Globe Telecom Inc. has set up new “Libreng Tawag” centers to serve more earthquake victims. Globe is setting up these stations where people can make free mobile phone calls in two areas in Bohol and one in Cebu.
Globe employee volunteers are setting up booths at the Bohol Sports Complex in Tagbilaran City that temporarily houses affected families; Carmen Municipal Hall, the earthquake’s epicenter; and Cebu City Medical Center where injured Cebu residents are being treated.
Earlier, Globe also put up a Libreng Tawag booth at the Tagbilaran Municipal Hall in Tagbilaran City, which is also being used as evacuation center.
The PLDT group also rolled out its relief efforts through the MVP Tulong Kapatid foundation.
It said it was providing communications support for the Cebu Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (PDRRMC) via Internet connectivity, free mobile phone credits and landlines.
Mobile phone credits were also made available to the Bohol PDRRMC, while mobile phone charging stations were provided for free in Tagbilaran City.
Meralco said it was ready to provide technical support in restoring power to areas affected by the earthquake.
Maynilad Water Services Inc. sent water in jugs to Panglao Island off Tagbilaran City good for 400 families. The water will be transported by the Philippine Coast Guard.