By Martin Conboy
If you can help financially please visit www.redcross.org.ph/donate there is no doubt that the lovely people of the Philippines need all of our support.
The extent of the recent disaster in the Philippines and its impact on so many people is too difficult to put into words. It was heart breaking to see what these poor unfortunate people have had to go through especially as this was the same area that recently was affected by a major earthquake. Typhoon Haiyan, with wind speeds of over 195 miles per hour (310 + kms), left a path of devastation across the Philippines archipelago, it was the strongest storm ever to make landfall. According to German-based CEDIM Forensic Disaster Analysis, the destruction is estimated to be between $US 8 – 19 billion, though the full extent of the damage is unlikely to be known for weeks or even months. Even now some survivors are only just seeing the first signs of aid that is pouring in from all over the world.
There is an interesting part of the character of the Filipino people and that is their eternal optimism and they will pull through this and be stronger as a result. The country has been preparing to protect the industries it relies on for its economy for a long time and disaster recovery planning is a well-established management practice, as Typhoons are an inevitable fact of life in the Philippines. On average the Philippines is hit by over 20 heavy to severe storms per year. The most recent disaster has certainly affected some parts of the BPO industry, but the level of impact it has had on the industry has been kept to a minimum due to a range of effective forward thinking disaster recovery procedures.
Global buyers and service providers have built a strong presence in the Philippines, and typhoon threat is a geographical risk trade-off that companies have made in return for a high-grade good-quality English-speaking talent pool. The industry is well organised in terms of disaster recovery, although this storm was on a scale not seen before. The main BPO markets of Manila was not really affected as it was well to the north of the storm and emerging centres like Davao City were well to the south of the epicentre. Cebu and Iloilo in the central Philippines were not as fortunate.
In a statement given about Typhoon Haiyan’s effect on its Philippines operations in Manila and Cebu, US-based, Sykes Enterprises commented that “the impact from the typhoon has been immaterial, given the company’s disaster recovery planning and built-in redundant support infrastructure.” The company has been “operating in the Philippines since 1997 and the number of typhoons and storms the archipelago experiences on average is roughly 20 on an annual basis.”
Work was suspended in the cities of Cebu, Iloilo and Dumaguete, in preparation for the typhoon. Temporary power outages and disruption to telecommunications led to higher absenteeism. Many BPO organisations shifted their operations and call flows to other centres in the country in preparation of the storm.
Emily Brocoy, Senior Business Development Manager, Taking You Forward Inc. (TYF) a major BPO enterprise in Cebu, “ Every time there is a forecast of a strong typhoon to hit the country we always prioritize the safety and welfare of our employees first. On this occasion given the severity of the warnings we suspended our operations for one day, as we did not want our staff moving about getting to and from work.”
She went on to say, ”Of course we cannot just stop working, as that would disadvantage our customers, so in terms of business continuity planning and allowing for outages beyond our control, we have a partner in another geographical location that we can seamlessly divert telephony traffic to. Because of our prudence we were lucky that most of our employees were safe and got back to work the day after the storm had blown through and now our call centre operation is back to normal.”
The Philippine BPO industry will be playing a major role in helping to rebuild the infrastructure, prosperity, and lives for the people of the Philippines. With a growth of 6.6 percent last year, the Philippines is only second to China in the region. The impact of the storm to the national GDP is estimated to have shaved around one percent according to the IMF and economist in the country, with little impact to inflation, which the central bank has targeted between 3 and 5 percent for 2014.