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The Winner: Manila Electric Company: Salba-bote – Protecting Our Customers’ Lives During Typhoons and Floods

The Philippines is one of the most typhoon-prone countries in the world. An average of 19-21 typhoons pass through the country each year and the most catastrophic in recent history,  typhoon Haiyan, hit in 2013. Some of these storms make landfall in the capital, Manila, and deadly floods are frequent.

Meralco, the country’s biggest power distribution company serving 5.9 million customers, has a franchise area covering metropolitan Manila and surrounding flood-prone cities. Protecting the lives of residents during typhoons and flood-related  disasters is a primary concern for Meralco. Given the gravity of the frequent floods, Meralco recognised that a routine information campaign on safety was not enough.

It therefore took on a mission to develop a safety device that was easy to make and distribute to its millions of customers. It came up with the salba-bote – meaning to save (salba), using bottles (bote) – an innovative take on the improvised flotation device used by Filipino fishermen for decades.

The salba-bote is both a piece of rescue gear and a survival kit, made up of empty soft drink bottles inside a plastic-coated mesh tote bag with a water­-resistant pocket for emergency supplies. It keeps the wearer afloat with four PET bottles and a net design that prevents water from accumulating and weighing down the bag. The salba-­bote also has linkable straps to help prevent families getting separated during floods and several can be used together to form rescue rafts.

The low-cost device is made of readily available materials and was designed to be easily copied.
Meralco and its partner agency DDB Philippines worked on design development, guided closely by rigorous testing by the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) and Philippine Coast Guard Auxiliary (PCGA).

For the initial production, Meralco partnered with Pepsi Cola Philippines for PET bottles and Glad for the emergency supplies holder. With their help, it was able to produce 15,000 units for  $129,000, just $8.61 per unit. The salba-bote was launched at the onset of the typhoon season in July 2015 on the site of one of the most disastrous floods in metropolitan Manila, by the riverbanks of Marikina, and the first batch was handed over to the PRC, the PCGA and Marikina local government.

The salba-bote is now widely used by local government units in their flood management operations and is already saving lives.

The Award was presented by Ruder Finn Chairman, Jean-Michel Dumont to Meralco’s Joe Zaldarriaga at the gala reception in Hong Kong on December 1

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Ruder Finn Asia is proud to sponsor The 2016 Gold Standard Awards. Founded in 1989, Ruder Finn Asia is the Asia-Pacific subsidiary of New York-based Ruder Finn, the leading independent global public relations consulting firm.  Growing at an average of 25 percent every year since 2000, Ruder Finn Asia today employs close to 300 consultants in Asia-Pacific and has offices in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Singapore, Mumbai, New Delhi and Bangalore.

The firm is represented across all other regional markets through a network of high quality affiliates. Ruder Finn Asia’s business centers on four strategic pillars: Corporate & Public Trust, Global Connectivity, Health & Wellness and Life+Style. The firm offers expertise in reputation management, digital and social marketing strategy, crisis communication, employee engagement, design and executive skills training. 

Ruder Finn Asia is also supported by award winning digital practice, RFI Studios; INSIGHT, which provides training as well as research on trends, producing the annual China Luxury Forecast; and Activation, a unique practice which establishes creative partnership opportunities.