MORE billionaires are joining to help fight the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) across the Philippines.

After San Miguel Corp., Ayala Corp., the Manuel V. Pangilinan (MVP) Group, the SM Group and Udenna Corp., the Gokongwei, Araneta and Villar families and Andrew L. Tan’s Alliance Global Group, Inc. (AGI) also announced their own initiatives to assist the health sector yesterday.

In a statement, the Gokongwei Brothers Foundation, Inc. (GBF) of JG Summit Holdings, Inc. said it formed a P100-million fund targeting two key beneficiaries: national and local frontline health providers.

“The fund earmarked by GBF is over and above the ongoing initiatives that the various companies under the Gokongwei Group… are spearheading on their own,” it said.

The foundation committed to provide personal protective equipment such as surgical masks for health care frontliners. It is also supporting the distribution of rapid test kits to hospitals.

GBF identified the U.P. Medical Foundation, Inc. and PGH Medical Foundation, Inc. as among the institutions in its priority list.

Other companies within the Gokongwei group are also lending a hand. Food unit Universal Robina Corp. is donating food products like coffee, crackers, cup noodles, bottled water and milk drinks to health workers in hospitals.

Aside from helping buy test kits, real estate arm Robinsons Land Corp. will waive the rental fees for non-operational tenants in its malls that are closed during the quarantine period. It will also offer rent condonation to tenants to help “reallocate funds and allow them to extend financial assistance to their employees for this emergency.”

Robinsons Bank Corp. will be extending the payment deadline for its customers under various loan products.

Retail unit Robinsons Retail Holdings, Inc. will help by keeping its necessity stores such as groceries, convenience stores, drugstores and hardware shops operational during quarantine period.

Airline arm Cebu Air, Inc., which operates Cebu Pacific, will offer flight rebookings for scheduled flights until April 30. Customers will also be given the option to put the cost of a ticket in a “travel fund” for future use.

For the Aranetas, social development arm J. Amado Araneta Foundation, Inc. pledged donating locally produced COVID-19 test kits to the Quezon City General Hospital.

It said in a statement yesterday it has committed giving help to the local government of Quezon City by providing test kits that will accommodate 500 samples at the identified hospital.

“Araneta City values the health and safety of the entire community. This is our way of showing our cooperation to the government in this time of crisis,” Araneta City Senior Vice-President Antonio T. Mardo was quoted in the statement as saying.

The test kits, which are developed by scientists from the University of the Philippines-National Institute of Health, will be procured as soon as they are made commercially available.

For the Villars, the family is donating disinfecting apparatus to nine government hospitals in Metro Manila, 200,000 face masks and a daily supply of bottled water to the government through the Health department.

For Mr. Tan’s AGI, the company said it is donating one million liters of alcohol to the government agencies at the frontlines. These include the Health department, the Philippine National Police, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and local government units.

“Through the Department of Health, we hope to distribute disinfectant alcohol to as many, if not, all the hospitals and clinics that are treating COVID-19 patients all over the country,” AGI Chief Executive Officer Kevin Andrew L. Tan said in a statement.

While the SM Group had earlier announced setting aside P100 million for its assistance program, its co-living property MyTown also said yesterday it is providing temporary staff housing for businesses that require emergency staff accommodation.

SM Supermalls is also waiving the rental fees of all its tenants nationwide for the Mar. 16 to April 14 period.

For the MVP Group, its social responsibility arm Tulong Kapatid also supplemented the group’s previously announced employee support with grocery assistance to frontliners.

In a statement yesterday, the group said it sent more than 1,000 grocery packs to the families of health workers and personnel of V. Luna Hospital, as well as to the checkpoint officers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

“We salute our frontline heroes for the courageous work that they are doing… We join the growing number of Filipinos who are coming together to help our health workers during this critical time,” PLDT Chairman and CEO Manuel V. Pangilinan was quoted in the statement as saying.

On Monday evening, President Rodrigo R. Duterte called on the private sector to help in mitigation efforts against COVID-19. The Health department reported 202 confirmed cases, 17 deaths and seven recoveries from the COVID-19 in the Philippines as of Wednesday afternoon. — Denise A. Valdez