Thursday, December 23, 2021

Tzu Chi Foundation and Industry Leaders teamed together for a comprehensive response to Odette victims


Super typhoon Odette's devastation has leveled large parts of the central and southern Philippines, putting six regions in a state of disaster: Mimaropa, Western Visayas, Central Visayas, Eastern Visayas, Northern Mindanao, and Caraga. However, due to a lack of communication within the affected areas and impassable roads connecting the towns, distributing aid quickly has proven to be a huge challenge. This prompted a call from and for business and NGO leaders to work together to help communities recover and develop strategic responses to future disasters.

Bro. Henry Yunez, Country CEO of the Buddhist Compassion Tzu Chi Foundation Philippines, expressed gratitude for the "opportunity to interact with these groups," adding that his organization welcomes volunteers and resources from all sectors because "there is no religion involved in what we are doing."

Tzu Chi has visited nine towns in Bohol and 15 in Southern Leyte since the weather has cleared, allowing volunteers and rescue missions to enter the devastated areas. They've supplied thousands of liters of water and medicines to these areas, and they're seeking for more generators to assist with water pumping. Rice will be distributed to around 20,000 families shortly after December 26.

Technology and transparency

When the Philippines was hit by Yolanda in 2013, one of the most powerful typhoons in history, Tzu Chi's response to relief efforts was hailed as one of the most effective by civil society and government.

Aside from collecting and transporting relief materials for the Odette victims, Amor Maclang, Digital Pilipinas Convenor, added that "big equipment and the construction side of things" are also needed. A more "participative and transparent" collaboration of partners can take advantage of rapidly evolving technology such as fintech, e-commerce, and logistics to "transfer money faster" to those who need it most. Digital Pilipinas, a movement that uses technology to solve commercial and social problems, has previously assisted the Tzu Chi Foundation in "teching up their organization" "even before Odette," according to Maclang. “Most importantly, we can leverage technology to show transparency of where the money is going.”

Industry leaders from the real estate, logistics, construction, financial services, payments, and retail spaces attended Tzu Chi Foundation Philippine and Digital Pilipinas' recent meeting, "Typhoon Odette Relief Briefing and Response Planning." It promoted 'Bayanihan' and a whole-of-nation, whole-of-society strategy to dealing with the Odette-affected areas.

The "meeting is not just for awareness, but for support, cooperation, and unity," according to Cherrie Rose Ang, Admin Senior Officer of Tzu Chi's Admin and Volunteer Affairs Department. Filipinos are staying in temporary shelters or evacuation centers days after Odette made nine landfalls across Visayas and Mindanao. “Children are going out to the streets to beg for help. Ang said of the condition reported by their volunteers. "People are desperate to salvage whatever items they can get from their ruined houses.”

Several of the companies mentioned in the webinar are already assisting with the rescue efforts. EtiqaCares, according to Gladys Pascual, Etiqa's Head of Strategy and Transformation, is supporting the rehabilitation programs. Kim Lato, the founder of Kimstore, is collaborating with the Tzu Chi Foundation to organize a fundraising on their website. Meanwhile, Nauman Mustafa, CEO of Coins.PH, announced that “instead of buying Christmas gifts for our partners, we will be donating instead.”

Even those who have been affected by Typhoon Odette are arranging relief efforts. Even though hundreds of our members have been affected by Odette, Roy Miclat, President of 1 Cooperative Insurance System of the Philippines, said his team is serving “in the remote areas 

Long-term solutions

Meanwhile, in response to concerns about restoring communications and internet connectivity, Yoly Crisanto, Globe SVP, and Chief Sustainability Officer, said that the telecom giant is doing what we can to make sure all the provinces struck by Odette become online and connected again.” and that the increasing threats from climate change will only lead to more and stronger typhoons, particularly for vulnerable countries like the Philippines. "The challenge of our time," she remarked, " is what are we going to do to become better the next time we are faced with the same situation.” 

Forward-thinking initiatives, Miclat said, “should not focus on one-time activities, like donation drives.”

The collaboration between Mustafa of and Donna May Lina, Director and Executive Board of the OneLGC Lina Group of Companies, is one solution. Both companies will use tokens to represent tree-planting activities in order to better motivate Filipinos to participate in environmental restoration. With their knowledge in disaster preparedness, the Lina organization is hoping to bring on additional people who will be better prepared when the next disaster occurs. 

Marco Santos, representing Mapua University and the Yuchengco group, stated that the country can educate future architects, engineers, and other professionals on how to build disaster-resistant structures. "Producing people who are ready for the job," he said. "We produce good engineers. Our first patent is called Project Usher and it enables us to monitor buildings during an earthquake.”

Technology will be critical not just in the aftermath of Typhoon Odette, but also in the future. "We can align all of our groups to make technology and systems relevant," Georgia Martelino, Microsoft Philippines' Philanthropist Lead, stated. “Let us pool our resources and label it as a Tzu Chi platform so people can access it for free. We can start with digital literacy.”

Tzu Chi Foundation Philippines is assisting in the rehabilitation, recovery, economic, and educational restoration of the areas impacted by Typhoon Odette by utilizing its global network of volunteers and staff. They include the communities in various operations, which also serves as a means of providing them with temporary sources of income. 

“With love in our hearts, there is nothing we cannot overcome. Anton Lim, OIC of Tzu Chi Zamboanga Liaison Office, remarked,  We can come together and build again,” 

Tzu Chi, Digital Pilipinas, and the other organizations plan to hold more meetings with more action plans as the situation develops, according to Maclang. The collaboration will continue because it is not just "about Odette but about humanity.” she remarked. 

The Tzu Chi Foundation Philippines is open for donations which can be sent through the following: Account name: Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation Philippines; BDO Account number: 011978001800; Metrobank Account number: 163-3-16307190-9. Send soft copy of deposit slips at or through Viber/Line/WeChat: +639672110940.

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