Berjaya’s Tan provides housing for Typhoon Sendong survivors
CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – In December 2011, Typhoon Sendong (international name: Washi) slammed into Mindanao, with a death toll of more than 1,000 and close to a billion pesos in widespread damages.
That time, in London, Malaysian billionaire Tan Dato' Seri Vincent Tan Chee Yioun (widely known as Vincent Tan) saw the footage of the devastation and resolved to help the typhoon survivors.
Nearly 4 years after the typhoon, the Berjaya Corporation Berjad founder flew to the Philippines and officially turned over on Friday, January 23 a new concreted road and drainage project within the Berjaya-Gawad Kalinga (GK) Village in Barangay Camaman-an, Cagayan De Oro (CDO).
Tan also led the groundbreaking ceremonies of 100 new homes in Berjaya-GK Village in Bugo, also in CDO.
“What we’re doing here is a fulfillment of a promise that we made in 2011 as a company with compassion,” Tan said.
Tan immediately donated 100 houses in Barangay Camaman-an. Overall, he and his diversified conglomerate have donated P100 million ($6.79 million) through GK, resulting in 830 houses.
Tan, whose diversified conglomerate hit RM8.73 billion ($2.42 billion*) in revenues ending April 2014, promised to donate further for the cause as soon as the GK Community Development Foundation finds more suitable locations for the housing projects.
New home, new hope
Al Besinga, president of Kapitbahayan, the organization of the beneficiaries of Berjaya-GK village in Camaman-an, enthusiaistically told the gathered crowd that they feel blessed and dignified at being provided an opportunity to own their own house.
Julia, 42, one of the housing beneficiaries recalled that her house was destroyed by Sendong. She now lives in the GK village and said life is more comfortable and safe for her 3-year-old daughter, Venice.
Joining in the turnover ceremony for the newly concrete road was GK executive director Jose Luis Oquiñena, who said that Tan’s initial donation of P100 million inspired other companies to donate to GK communities.
It took GK two years to completely invest the initial donation to build houses due to various local government unit (LGU), tenurial, and land issues, Oquiñena said.
CDO 2nd District Representative Rufus Rodriguez thanked Tan’s Berjaya for their efforts to help the city, as he recalled how Sendong became the worst typhoon to hit them, as CDO river swelled, sweeping away about 1500 residents to their death.
The village currently houses 150 families, 90 of them were Sendong survivors while the rest were already residents in the site and also affected by previous disasters, Oquiñena shared.
Gawad Kalinga is a well-respected non-profit organization that aims to to lift 5 million families out of poverty by 2024.
GK also actively promotes social entrepreneurship and promote inclusive businesses through its flagship village, the GK Enchanted Farm in Bulacan.
Like with any starting community, the GK villages also face challenges.
For one, Julia said she spends about half of her monthly budget buying water from stores for their consumption – from drinking, showering, to washing clothes.
Julia and the other community members were informed that the main water supply line is having difficulty to supply their isolated village since it is perched up on a high hill.
When asked about the problem, Oquiñena said they are aware of it as it has been the case for 3 years now, since the village was established.
Oquiñena reiterated that GK is doing all it can but that the implementation of a new, more robust line connecting the village to the main line is a commitment by the local government unit (LGU), with the project cost estimated at P3 million ($67,919.41).
For his part, Rodriguez said that it is indeed in the hands of the LGU officials but added that he is doing everything in his power to help push the matter, pointing out that the new road and drainage system would help alleviate the situation.
Investing in a community
When asked about why Berjaya chose to course donations through GK, Tan replied that he was very much impressed with GK’s model for building houses for the less fortunate, developing a sustainable community and making existing funds stretch into building more homes.
“Investing in a country is not just about company dividends,” Tan said. (READ: Berjaya's Tan: No bribes, just paying locals who 'get things done')
Berjaya owns the Berjaya Philippines Inc. (BPI), which in turn owns the Philippines Gaming Management Corp. (PGMC), Perdana Hotel Philippines, Inc., and Berjaya Auto Philippines Inc. among other interests.
Specifically, Berjaya is the official distributor of Mazda vehicles in the Philippines; supplies equipment for lottery operations in Luzon; owns and operates a hotel in Makati; and holds the franchise for pizza restaurant Papa John's.
Tan himself is known to sports aficionados as the owner of Cardiff City Football Club.
Oquiñena said that Tan intends to give P100 million ($2.26 million) annually, "as long as business is good," in addition to the pledged P200 million ($4.53 million).
As for future commercial investments, Berjaya Philippines country head Paul So said the company is looking into what they can do further “if the community welcomes us.”
“Mr. Tan mentioned that the Philippines needs to create more jobs so that people don’t need to leave the country, so that’s what we want to do," So said. – Rappler.com
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