April 8, 2020
photos Floyd Jhocson, Ed Simon, and Kieran Punay of STUDIO 100, WESTEND61
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With hundreds of companies worldwide experiencing a shattering paradigm shift due to the impacts of a global pandemic, top business leaders struggle to balance goodwill and survival—supporting frontliners and employees while attempting to run businesses as usual—the situation in the Philippines is no different

As the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) ravages nations and leaves its devastating effects, the world races against time to find effective ways of mitigating a contagion that has afflicted hundreds of thousands. Governments enforced nationwide quarantines and travel bans to stall the spread of the disease in anticipation of a cure. Though effective up to a certain point, these solutions have, however, halted many business operations and undermined industries that are heavily reliant on human interaction. While this is first and foremost a health crisis, the domino effect adds one more challenge after another and has given birth to yet another consequential conundrum—as stocks plummet and economies cut back, thought leaders foresee a potential global recession.

(Photo by Floyd Jhocson of STUDIO 100)

How Global Companies are Faring

A month ago, Google’s Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai announced what has been so far the largest donation from a tech industry leader—$800 million in cash and advertising, in addition to the previous donations of its philanthropic arm. From the sum, $250 million will be given in ad grants to assist the World Health Organization (WHO) and more than 100 government agencies around the world in providing information regarding the deadly virus. In addition to their global assistance, Google has pledged an undisclosed amount for a COVID fund, which compensates employees whose schedules have been reduced due to the current circumstances.

Dave Clark, Senior Vice President of Amazon Worldwide Operations, in a letter to all employees, expressed the company’s sentiments, highlighting the increase in employee hiring to cushion growing tensions with their workforce as the spike in the number of deliveries from the online retailer exacerbated overworked units. “We have already hired over 80,000 people into those roles, and have spent more than $150 million to support our team of associates and partners. We expect to go well beyond our initial $350 million investment in additional pay, and we will do so happily,” he said. “If someone would rather not come to work, we are supporting them in their time off. If someone is diagnosed or comes to us who is presumptively diagnosed (but unable to get a test), we are giving them extra paid time off. In addition, we are also contacting people who have been in close contact with a diagnosed individual and giving them time off as well, for 14 days, to stay home with pay. We continue to evaluate all options to ensure the support of our teams during this unprecedented time.”

In a letter issued previously, CEO and founder Jeff Bezos addressed Amazonians, admitting more trying times ahead, “This isn’t business as usual, and it’s a time of great stress and uncertainty. It’s also a moment in time when the work we’re doing is its most critical.”

(Photo by Floyd Jhocson of STUDIO 100)

A Nation on the Edge

Amidst fear and apprehension, the Philippines’ sense of community is awakened thanks to the significant contributions of the country’s most benevolent philanthropists—reinvigorating the Filipinos’ resilience throughout this situation. Championing the indefatigable spirit of the nation, the country’s most influential leaders rushed to the aid of the most stricken communities. Exercising executive power to mobilize the necessary assistance, be it financial aid or medical and food provision, several leaders substantiate that similar to their international counterparts, behind excellence and business acumen is generosity and compassion.

The Ayala Group resolved to adopt a P2.4-billion coronavirus (COVID-19) response package consisting of wages, bonuses, leave conversions, and loan deferments primarily for the extended workforce of their partner employers. The decision was a thoughtful one, granting financial support for the duration of the quarantine period.

Tessie Sy-Coson of the SM Group has pledged P100 million, providing financial aid to several government hospitals which include the Philippine General Hospital and the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM)—two of the key medical institutions that have been conducting extensive research on the pandemic, for their urgent needs and for improving their laboratory testing capacity.

Manny Pangilinan who in a series of tweets has expressed his companies’ commitment to abetting the workforce at the advent of Luzon’s lockdown. Aside from the work-from-home arrangements, the entire organization will continue to receive bonuses and salaries, reserving the use of vacation and sick leaves, as well as granting employees’ 13th-month pay in advance. An estimated P600 million will be spent by the company to implement these. “We will be raising more funds to help in the coming days,” the business magnate said.

A Call for Solidarity

An article from the Center of American Progress supposes that by abetting these vulnerable individuals, companies ensure three crucial components of surviving the crisis: the workforce’s capability to afford and access basic necessities, a certain amount of control over their own lives in this time of hardship, and the possible avoidance of the grim consequences of financial disaster. By empowering consumption, businesses, in turn, can invest more, directly affecting economic activity and igniting the preferred economic growth. “Consumption and investments are the cornerstones of a full economic recovery.” The coronavirus has already impeded the revival of global economic growth experienced in the latter part of 2019.

From munificent individuals to smallscale businesses, local corporations to global conglomerates, the crisis has proven that everyone is capable of charity. And whether help comes financially or in kind, the authenticity of intent makes all the difference. Humanity’s enduring spirit is fueled by social conscience, inspires more through kindness and selflessness, and ultimately, persists with our hope for survival.

Read the full cover story written by Pipo Gonzales in Lifestyle Asia’s April-May 2020 issue titled, “The New Normal.”

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