By Zsarlene B. Chua, Reporter

THE Philippine Red Cross (PRC) has tapped California-based drone delivery service Zipline to make on-demand and emergency blood deliveries nationwide starting 2020.

“[This partnership] gives us the opportunity to bring our blood in areas that are very difficult to [reach],” Senator Richard J. Gordon, chairman of the PRC, said during the signing of the agreement with Zipline on Tuesday at the PRC headquarters in Mandaluyong City.

Paul David Hewson, more popularly known as “Bono” and as the frontman of Irish rock band U2, attended the event as one of the investors of Zipline through his investment fund — The Rise Fund. Mr. Hewson is also a Zipline board member.

“Music is my passion but Zipline is where all my other passions come together, which is the idea that commerce should serve people, not people serving commerce, the idea that the brightest minds shine brighter when they work for vulnerable lives… This is why I am excited about Zipline,” Bono said during the briefing.

“We want to believe that you can serve purpose beyond mere profit,” he added. “Where you live should never decide whether you live.”

Zipline’s service can run 24/7 with each drone capable of carrying 1.8 kilos of cargo and have round trip range of 160 kilometers in high winds and rain.

Aside from blood deliveries, Zipline can deliver “more than 150 critical and life-saving medical products” including vaccines.

ASKED about the human rights situation in the Philippines, U2 frontman Bono only had a “soft message” to President Rodrigo R. Duterte: “You can’t compromise on human rights.” — BETTINA V. ROC

Health workers place orders via text messages and should receive their deliveries “in 30 minutes on average.” Drones will take off and land at the three planned distribution centers in Visayas though no specific location has been revealed.

More distribution centers are planned to be built in Eastern Visayas and Mindanao. Each distribution center will have 20 to 30 drones.

“Conservatively, we will be serving 10 million people here by 2020,” Keller Rinaudo, Zipline chief executive officer, said, adding that he thinks it would take “10 to 15 distribution centers” to serve the entire Philippines.

“Millions of people in the Philippines can’t access the vital medical products they need because of last-mile transport challenges. Zipline’s instant drone delivery service was designed to help solve that problem,” Mr. Rinaudo said in the statement.

Mr. Rinaudo said they charge a logistics fee for each delivery, but noted that their service is “around the same cost as it would take using a car but ten times faster and more reliable.”

Since its launch in 2016, Zipline has brought its services to Rwanda, Ghana, India, and North Carolina.

The company aims to serve 700 million people in the next five years and with plans to enter developed and developing countries across Africa, South Asia, the Asia-Pacific, and the Americas.

Also during the event, Bono, a member of Amnesty International, was asked to comment on the human rights situation in the Philippines.

“I think we’re trying to make a difference here rather than make headlines. I am a member of Amnesty International, I have been all my life, and I think human rights are critical. My impression of the Philippines is very caring, very sophisticated people. I understand that when progress is made, sometimes people make what they think are compromises for that progress. And I would just say, you can’t compromise on human rights. That’s my soft message to President Duterte,” he said.

U2 is scheduled to hold their first concert in the country at the Philippine Arena today (Dec. 11).


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