Makati City, Philippines – May 14, 2020 The United Nations Global Compact recognizes the tremendous impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the socio-economic progress countries have achieved over the last couple of years.
But despite the major setbacks brought by the pandemic, regional business leaders see a silver lining from the renewed unity between the private and the public sectors in these unprecedented times.
In Global Compact Academy’s webinar “#UnitingBusiness to Respond to COVID-19” held Tuesday, Ayala Corporation’s Chairman and CEO Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala said the partnership between the private sector and the government has been instrumental in effectively addressing the immediate needs of the Philippines, as the country’s main island Luzon enters the 57th day of enhanced community quarantine.
“We’ve been working hand in hand with the government to see what kind of economic stimulus would be necessary,” Zobel said. “Not a day goes in the Philippines where the private sector and the public sector are not having dialogues, exchanging notes, and seeing where we can help each other at all different levels.”
Quick, multi-sectoral response
Immediately after the implementation of the enhanced community quarantine, the Ayala group unveiled a P5.5 billion COVID-19 response package that aimed to protect its employees, support the tenants of its malls and commercial properties, and provide relief to the communities it serves. According to Zobel, this response package enabled the group’s more than 72,000 direct-hire employees as well as 75,000 day laborers in its construction business to have financial security in a time of uncertainty.
The group also acknowledges the importance of supporting micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), which cover 60% of total annual revenues of Philippine businesses, contribute about 35% of the total gross domestic product, and employ 63% of Filipino workforce. As such, Ayala commits to supporting its network of 200,000 SMEs and over 1 million micro enterprises under three key aspects, namely, health, business continuity through digitalization, and financial assistance. For instance, AC Health opened a 24/7 medical hotline. Meanwhile, Globe offered digital packages for work-from-home arrangement and data storage requirement, while BPI currently works on a product that will help MSMEs recover.
In partnership with the government, the Ayala group took the lead in the conversion of the World Trade Center to a 500-bed quarantine facility, which was effectively turned over to the Armed Forces of the Philippines in less than two weeks. The group also donated all the testing booths for four Mega Swabbing Centers, which aim to swab 55,000 individuals in the Greater Manila Area over the next three weeks. Moreover, through Go Negosyo’s Project ARK, Ayala and other big business groups donated RT-PCR machines to ramp up the testing capacities of six government hospitals at 7,000 swab tests per day.
“Out of a difficult and painful situation, we can all come out of this in a way that we’ve created a new sense of purpose in unity— in our constituency, in our communities— then I think there’s a lot that we can build on in the future,” Zobel emphasized.
The Ayala group has also been instrumental in collaborating with other members of the private sector for Project Ugnayan, a multi-sectoral initiative that reached 5,445,255 urban poor families, equivalent to over 7.6 million Filipinos, through different distribution channels led by Caritas Manila’s Project Damayan.
Higher resilience through sustainability
But these are just short-term solutions to the bigger issues, Zobel said. According to him, the pandemic has exposed how vulnerable we all are, and this presents an opportunity to realign business strategies to make us all resilient in the future.
“If ever there’s a time to basically reflect on the way we’ve all been doing things and on the kind of world we want to create, it is now,” Zobel said. “In the end, we can emerge as more unified, more resilient.”
Zobel’s statement was backed by Kokosai Kogyo Chairperson and CEO Sandra Wu, who said the crisis has actually strengthened her company’s sustainability agenda. Meanwhile, UN ESCAP Undersecretary General Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana said companies should begin investing in “soft infrastructure,” which includes a change of mindset and behavior for all its stakeholders.
As a founding member of the United Nations Global Compact Network Philippines, Ayala Corporation believes that sustainability is key to a better future. It supports Global Compact’s 10 Principles and aligns its business objectives with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
To further the group’s contribution to a sustainable future, it launched its own Ayala Sustainability Blueprint that features specific sustainable development goals (SDGs) with particular business units as champions. At Ayala, each business unit sets a target to help bring the Filipino to Ayala’s vision of 2030.
These targets were further strengthened during the Annual Stockholders’ Meetings, as the leaders across the Ayala group disclosed their respective sustainability initiatives in relation to their commitment to the SDGs. Visit this link to learn more about the sustainability performance of the Ayala group: https://www.ayala.com.ph/investors/annual-reports