More businesses pitch in with donations, test kits for COVID-19 response

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 19) — More companies have stepped up with donations and fundraising initiatives to help government combat the coronavirus disease, with the entire Luzon placed under strict quarantine.

The Jollibee Group Foundation run by billionaire Tony Tan Caktiong added to the pledges on Wednesday night, donating ₱100 million worth of its food products – packed meals from Jollibee, Chowking, Mang Inasal, Red Ribbon, Greenwich, Burger King, Panda Express, and PHO24 – for health workers and checkpoint personnel.

Udenna Group owned by businessman and presidential ally Dennis Uy also turned over 1,000 COVID-19 test kits to the Department of Health, which it secured through Korea’s MyongJi Hospital. Uy’s food brands Wendy’s and Conti’s Bake Shop also served more than 200 food packs to health workers, community workers, and the police. Affected employees will also receive a portion of their 13th month pay and yearend bonus early, the company said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the family of Vista Land owner Manny Villar said they have disinfecting tools, 200,000 face masks, and daily supply of bottled water to nine public hospitals in Metro Manila.

Even Chinese billionaire Jack Ma committed to help the Philippines, pledging 500,000 face masks to be sent until next week, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said Thursday. The Alibaba founder earlier shipped a previous donation of 50,000 masks through boxing champ Senator Manny Pacquiao’s foundation.

Ma also shared an online handbook which would guide Filipino doctors, nurses, and other health workers on how to avoid getting infected while treating patients, based on China’s experience.

The Aboitiz Group also said it has given over 5,700 N95 masks to DOH to add to much-needed medical supplies for health and security workers. The family-owned conglomerate said it has also donated surgical gloves, thermometers, folding bets, laboratory goggles, and tents to boost protection in the provinces. Bread for police and military checkpoints have also been pledged by its subsidiary Pilmico. An online fundraising initiative through Aboitiz’s KINDer has also been rolled out. 

Earlier, Metrobank and GT Capital Holdings Group of the Ty family said they are pledging ₱200 million to respond to the health crisis, mainly for the production of more coronavirus test kits by the University of the Philippines National Institutes of Health as well as the personal protective equipment for healthcare staff. Customers and employees of the group will also be given some relief as their jobs and salaries are disrupted.

The Gokongwei Brothers Foundation led by the heirs of the late taipan John Gokongwei, Jr. also said they are putting up a ₱100-million fund to mitigate the impact of COVID-19, which will be spent on additional protective gear of health workers and rapid test kits produced by scientists from UP. 

“The UP Medical Foundation, Inc. and PGH Medical Foundation, Inc. are among the select institutions in GBF’s priority list,” the group said in a statement.

The Gokongwei Group’s food production unit URC said it will be donating coffee, crackers, cup noodles, bottled water, and soy drink products to frontline health workers.

SM Group first announced Monday a ₱100-million allocation to help government hospitals in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, with other big businesses following suit.

The assistance will be extended to the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) and the Research Institute for Tropical Management (RITM) “for their urgent needs and for improving their laboratory testing capacity.”

“To ensure the safety of medical frontliners, SM is bringing in PPE — face masks, gowns, visors, hoods, gloves, and shoe covers — as well as urgent medical supplies to help government hospitals who badly need them,” said SM Prime’s Hans Sy.

SM has also allocated personal protective equipment (PPE) and medical supplies to the UP Medical Foundation Inc, the statement said Monday night.

The corporation has also reached out to Manila Healthtek Inc. to distribute 20,000 tests for free to government hospitals once these are already approved.

The government’s economic team has recently prepared a ₱27.1-billion spending plan for those affected by the coronavirus pandemic as an enhanced community quarantine in Luzon is in effect.

READ: Health workers, frontliners appeal for masks and alcohol donations in fight vs. COVID-19

The Finance Department says ₱3.1 billion has been set aside to buy more coronavirus test kits. The funds came from Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation, Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office, and a grant from the Asian Development Bank.

Businessman Manny Pangilinan, who is behind brands like PLDT, Smart and Meralco, announced that its unit Metro Pacific Hospitals has started sending frontline workers to needed areas and have been importing additional protective gear for their use. Some 4,000 liters of alcohol have also been donated for government hospitals, while a fundraising drive is ongoing for more help. Over 1,000 grocery packs also have been given to the families of V. Luna Hospital workers via the PLDT-Smart Foundation. 

Meanwhile, the group’s employees have been asked to work from home and have been assured of continued salaries, no leave deductions, and an early release of 13th month pay for some, Pangilinan added.

The Araneta Group likewise announced that the company is donating the UP-made COVID-19 test kits to the Quezon City Government through the J. Amado Araneta Foundation.

San Miguel Corporation previously announced that it is producing ethyl alcohol in its liquor plant, which is under regulatory approval for public use. The diversified conglomerate said it has started to distribute rubbing alcohol for free to hospitals and local government units. It also assured that food production continues round-the-clock to ensure ample supply for Luzon and the rest of the country.

On Wednesday, SMC said it started distributing food packs containing canned food, biscuits, spreads, dairy milk drinks, coffee and water to residents in the City of Manila. Donations would also be extended to other areas in Metro Manila as well as in select public hospitals in the coming days, the company said.

The company also said it has revived baking the Nutribun, or vitamin-packed bread popular for feeding programs in the 1970s, so that families who have no access to food can get sustenance. The buns, which account for a full meal with 250 calories, will be donated to Caritas Manila for distribution to communities.

Tycoon Andrew Tan and the Alliance Global Group also pledged 1 million liters of 70 percent ethyl alcohol to the Department of Health, the police, military, and local government units. The conglomerate behind Emperador said it will convert its stock of 86 percent alcohol into the kind that can be used for sanitizing clinics and hospitals.

Meanwhile, Ayala-owned GCash said separately that it has launched an online donation drive for hospitals and frontline health workers. Through the e-wallet app, users can choose to donate money which will be evenly divided to its partners: the Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation, the Philippine Red Cross, World Vision, UP Medical Foundation, PGH Foundation, Inc., ABS-CBN Lingkod Kapamilya Foundation, and Ayala Foundation.

The online fundraiser can be accessed under the “Pay Bills” section of the GCash app. A user must click “Others” and the “FightCOVID19” option to make the donation.

AC Health, a unit of Ayala Corporation, also said it has handed out 10,000 N95 masks in hospitals in Manila and Quezon City. PGH and RITM were among the recipients, as well as the following institutions: East Avenue Medical Center, Lung Center of the Philippines, Philippine Heart Center, National Kidney and Transplant Institute, Philippine Children’s Medical Center, Quezon City General Hospital, Quirino Medical Center, Jose R. Reyes Memorial Medical Center, and Ospital ng Maynila.

Cosmetic surgery firm Belo Medical Group also announced that it is donating its remaining stocks of PPE in its clinics for the use of hospitals and health centers in need, and will continue to donate once additional supplies arrive. The company led by founder and CEO Vicki Belo added that it will give full salary and benefits to its employees despite the work suspension, and will release the workers' 13th month pay early.

Business establishments, except supermarkets, groceries, food preparation areas, and banks have been told to close across Luzon as the government seeks to contain the spread of COVID-19. Trading at the Philippine Stock Exchange has also been halted from Tuesday, March 17.

READ: Stock market to reopen Thursday after 2-day shutdown due to COVID-19

In a statement, the Makati Business Club called on its members to pursue “aggressive” work from home arrangements, expand paid sick leave for workers, and to release loans or early bonuses to help their employees cope with the month-long shutdown. “This is especially critical for daily paid workers,” the group said.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III thanked big businesses on Thursday, saying their “compassion” for workers and the public set examples for other companies to follow suit. He commended the Aboitiz, Ayala, ICTSI/Solaire Group, JG Summit, Jollibee, Lucio Tan, Metro Pacific, San Miguel Corporation, SM, and Udenna Group for providing full pay to their workers amid the Luzon-wide quarantine.

“I call on other big enterprises to take the extra mile in assisting their workers during this crisis situation,” Bello said in a statement.