By Myrna M. Velasco
Unquestionably, there will be light at the end of COVID-19 pandemic. The helping hand of others sparks glimmer of hope – and on this sphere, many corporates are taking the lead – notwithstanding that businesses too are abysmally smacked by the health plague.
As confidently and admirably professed by San Miguel Corporation President and COO Ramon S. Ang: “At this point, what is more important are lives, not money. We can make money again, but life once you lose it, it’s gone forever. So between life and money, I will choose life.”
In the energy sector, several companies have been leading the way to make a difference in people’s lives – primarily for the frontliners and the marginalized segment of the population – uplifting the situation one day, one person, one organization, and one act of kindness at a time. After all, as World War II legendary diarist Anne Frank conveyed: “no one has ever become poor by giving.”
Many industry players are worth a mention: Transmission firm National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) gave ₱1-billion donation to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) and medical supplies to frontliners in various parts of the country, then meals and relief goods to underprivileged families; the First Philippine Holdings Corporation of the Lopez Group and Manila Electric Company (Meralco) extended temporary shelters for medical workers of The Medical City (TMC); the Ayala and Razon groups in a tie-up with Meralco shared resources for the electricity needs of three government-underpinned COVID treatment facilities; the various oil companies (Petron Corporation, Pilipinas Shell, Total, Cleanfuel, Unioil, Phoenix Petroleum and PTT Philippines) offered price discounts to frontliners and helped shore up PPE resources for hospitals and medical institutions.
The Aboitiz Group, to date, said it set aside a total of ₱1.825 billion in donations and other initiatives to help the government cope with the impact of the pandemic.
With plummeting prices and restricted travel, the oil industry is undoubtedly battered copiously during under the stay-at-home orders. Still, they are going out of their way to aid the government and the Filipino people rise above this distressing condition.
Pilipinas Shell, for its part, has donated ₱4 million to the Philippine Business for Social Progress for the purchase of family packs containing food and protection kits for displaced workers. Its other initiatives delve with provision of PPEs to the UP-Philippine General Hospital as well as other hospitals in Manila, Cebu and Davao; extending fuel discounts to front liners via its Project Bayanihan; and helping smallholder farmers to sell their produce as the two-month enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) is enforced by the State.
“This is an unprecedented time that demands compassion, respect and kindness from all of us. This is a time to care for ourselves, our families and the entire community,” Pilipinas Shell President and CEO Cesar G. Romero enthused.
With the company’s presence both in the downstream and upstream oil sector – it being the operator of the Malampaya gas field that fuels significant pie of the country’s electricity needs – Romero indicated that “safe and reliable provision of energy delivered through our steadfast frontliners and support staff, has been the top priority of Shell as our country battles the COVID-19 crisis,” adding that “we need electricity to power our homes and to enable Internet services that keep us connected. Vehicles need fuel to bring our health workers to hospitals; groceries to markets; and consumers to where they need to go.”
Petron and the entire San Miguel group have also been helping in a major way – not just on provision of PPEs to frontliners, but the oil firm in particular supported its scholars and communities in the form of fuel and donations for feeding programs at its host communities, to the health workers and personnel at checkpoints. The company also launched its own donation drive via Petron Value Cards, “to enable cardholders to donate their points to help procure vital medical supplies for hospitals and essential goods for frontliners.” And to reinforce that, Petron said it will “match donations made for certain period to generate more funds.”
Its latest drive – “Kadiwa ni Ani at Kita” rolling market – has been centered on helping farmers make money from their produce during these rough times, by offering 30 of its stations as drop-off points so these farm products would be more accessible to the buying public in safe way. As Ang emphasized, “Petron’s major stations will become a lifeline for farmers in the province struggling to find a way to sell their fresh farm harvest. With this program, we are able to help sustain their livelihood in this time of crisis. At the same time, we’re also making available fresh fruits and vegetables to people in Metro Manila to complement the products we offer.”
of temporary shelter
First, it was the Lopez group’s partnership with politician-businessman Luis “Chavit” Singson that enabled the transformation of the latter’s MetroTent into a 120-bed temporary shelter for medical personnel for their neighbor – The Medical City.
And as an inspiring bonus, Meralco also offered its doors to the TMC to have a “conducive living quarters at Meralco Center,” which is complete with all the amenities to help them recharge for their next duty.
As the utility firm regrettably narrated that “TMC frontliners were temporarily staying in TMC’s conference room, but unfortunately had to move out and were transferred to the TMC Rehabilitation Center gym. When the gym resumed operations, the frontliners had to move out again, leaving them no option but to seek for another place to stay close to TMC.”
With heavy burden of saving lives already cast upon frontliners’ shoulders, Meralco came auspiciously to rescue them at a time of pivotal need for temporary dwelling place, one that is just a stone’s throw away from the hospital so it won’t exhaust whatever energy is left of them after toxic duties.
“These frontliners treat Covid-19 patients and we wanted to do our best to make them feel loved, cared for, safe and comfortable,” Meralco President and CEO Ray C. Espinosa professed.
Meralco said it willingly reached out to TMC management and offered its multi-purpose hall at the Meralco’s Fitness Center as interim living quarters for about 32 of its frontliners – with the amenities and convenience they indispensably need like beddings, shower and toilet facilities, home-cooked hot meals, refrigerator, microwave, exercise equipment, television as well as internet access. Through that initiative, Meralco said it continues “to help address the frontliners’ problem in seeking conducive living quarters and faced difficulty in travelling to their homes due to the suspension of public transport during the ECQ period.”
Emphatically, these acts of kindness not just of individuals but also of corporate organizations give us comfort that there’s indeed a place we could call “home” where reciprocation of love and support stays – that way, it eases worries as to wherever the path will lead us post-COVID.