It may seem that Filipinos have seen it all—from the most destructive typhoons, massive flooding, powerful earthquakes, peaceful revolts to devastating volcanic eruptions.

But while these may have left a wide swath of destruction, a nation as resilient as the Philippines would always manage to rebuild and recover triumphantly, thanks to the collective, concerted efforts of the public and private sectors, individuals and various organizations, all lending their expertise and providing resources to help the country and its people rise again.

Government and private sector partners in a huddle. In photo are (clockwise from center) BCDA president Vince Dizon, WTC VP for operations Bel Mariano, MDC area manager Ariel Camannong, MDC GM for Makati South and operations lead for WTC Jowell San Jose, AFP Deputy Surgeon General Col. Joseph Batenga, and WTC president and CEO Pamela Pascual.

Today, the Philippines’ resiliency is being tested anew with the threat of a pandemic that is COVID-19, a respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus or SARS-CoV-2. Currently, Luzon and some provinces in VisMin are placed under enhanced community quarantine, a measure seen to flatten the curve.

Collaborative efforts

Despite the fact that the economy is reeling and businesses are taking a heavy toll from COVID-19, companies are stepping up to the plate to provide assistance in these trying times.

The Ayala Group of Companies, for one, has swiftly mobilized its subsidiaries to help its employees, tenants, vendors and partners. It is also working together with the government in converting spaces into COVID-19 facilities. Recently, the Ayala Group has completed the conversion of portions of the World Trade Center (WTC) in Pasay City into a temporary healthcare facility that will cater to patients affected by COVID-19.

“Collaboration between the public and private sectors is vital during these times, and we will continue to lend support to the government to help the country recover from this pandemic soon,” Ayala Land chairman Fernando Zobel de Ayala said.

Ayala Land, through Makati Development Corporation, fielded volunteer workers.

The conglomerate was able to pool P46.4 million for this project, dubbed WTC We Heal as One Center. This was made possible through the collective efforts of Ayala Land Inc., Globe Telecom Inc., Manila Water Co. Inc., Integrated Micro-Electronics Inc. (IMI), and AC Energy Inc., together with the ICCP Group and Manila Exhibition Center Inc. (MEC), with support from the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) and the national government.

Bobby Dy, Ayala Land President and CEO explained that the government, through the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF), had planned to convert public buildings to COVID-19 health facilities. When the national government had asked for Ayala Land’s support, Dy said they quickly mobilized and pooled their resources to assist in the best way they can.

“Given our capability in the Ayala Group and desire to help in ways that leverage on our resources, we quickly mobilized to plan and start work on the site. Ayala Land through Makati Development Corp. (MDC), Globe Telecom, IMI, AC Energy, Manila Water were involved in various aspects of the project and got the site completed within 10 days from our first conversation with BCDA president Vince Dizon. We are honored to be part of this collaborative effort that will benefit so many Filipinos, especially those who are afflicted and in most need,” Dy said.

Makati Development Corporation headed the fit-out construction of WTC.

“One key area that the government has identified in the fight against COVID-19 is to increase the capacity of our healthcare system. We totally agree and subscribe to the government’s approach of converting various sites suitable for this initiative. Given the increase in number of cases, our country needed more beds to handle those afflicted by this disease,” Dy added.

Working together

WTC is one of the largest events facilities in the country. The venue is used for many different types of exhibitions and events, from the simplest to the most complex set up. But according to Pamela Pascual, president and CEO of WTC of the ICCP group, this is the first time that the exhibition halls will be used as a hospital and will operate on a prolonged and continuous basis.

“The company had no reservations at all in agreeing to support the government in its efforts to fight and contain Covid-19. We had earlier internally discussed that the exhibition hall could be used for either a command center or a testing center. When time came that we were approached by Ayala about partnering to convert WTC Metro Manila into a health care facility, we right away said yes, and planning started soon after,” Pascual shared.

MEC is providing the spaces in WTC rent-free in addition to supplying bathroom toiletries, security and janitorial services.

Medical staff checked on workers to ensure their safety.

Within the AC Group, Ayala Land, through MDC, fielded around 300 volunteer workers in two shifts. MDC was in charge of retrofitting the area, heading the fit-out construction for 9,700 sqm of space in WTC in a span of seven days. Following the layout and design by MDC, with guidance from the Department of Health and Arch. Daniel Lichauco, the facility now features 500 beds enclosed in safe, clean, and controlled isolation cubicles, as well as examination rooms, nurses’ stations, doctors’ work areas, and medical staff quarters.

Globe Telecom funded a large portion of the facility’s construction cost, and provided unlimited wi-fi services, while Manila Water built 27 private cubicle shower areas for patients and 10 in a converted container van for medical workers. For its part, IMI is providing two sanitation booths at the entrance of the facility and another two at the exit.
For continued operations, AC Energy donated 500 bedframes and pillows and has committed to cover 50 percent of the facility’s electricity costs until May 31 this year while the remaining half will be shouldered by partner donor Manila Electric Co.

Other private sector partners include Philippine Constructors Association, which contributed cubicles for the facility; Smart Communications Inc., which also provided wi-fi internet connectivity; and San Miguel Corp., which is supplying the center’s alcohol requirements. MDC construction partners also contributed supplies and equipment to complete the fit-out of the facility.

Food commissary suppliers and a cafeteria operator have also been recruited.

“We are grateful to all our private partners for setting up a much-needed facility in such a short period of time. In partnership with ICCP Group, Ayala Group, and Meralco, the conversion of the World Trade Center Metro Manila into a COVID-19 quarantine facility is testament to what the public and private sectors can achieve when they work together for the good of our country,” BCDA president Vince Dizon said.

With the conversion now completed, WTC will serve as an isolation facility for COVID-19 positive patients who are either asymptomatic or have mild symptoms. This facility will be operated by the Armed Forces of The Philippines Health Service Command.

“The ‘Bayanihan’ spirit of the Filipino people has sustained our efforts to win this fight against COVID-19. We, at the IATF, continue to mobilize all government resources to implement the projects needed to help the country overcome this global pandemic. Among these projects is the augmentation of healthcare facilities in the city to accommodate the increasing number of COVID patients. We thank our private sector partners who worked with us on the World Trade Center project which is now ready to provide good quality healthcare to COVID patients,” said National Task Force COVID-19 Chief Implementer Sec. Carlito Galvez Jr..

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