In the wake of Typhoon Ondoy, many a house and automobile were wrecked by the rains produced by the said typhoon. The floods caused by the natural calamity produced an innately high number of property damage running in the billions of pesos, and the sad part about it is that many auto owners had no insurance, or at least had comprehensive insurance but no Acts of God (AOG) coverage that they could lean on in case a freak instance of nature occurs.
That is the sad fact facing most Filipinos as the country still reels from the sucker punch given to rich and poor alike by Mother Nature. Those who had no insurance really had it bad, as Philippine Insurers and Reinsurers Association (PIRA) chairman Attorney Honorio Ramajo narrated during that fateful Saturday on September 26, 2009. Atty. Ramajo was one of those rendered homeless -and carless - by Typhoon Ondoy. His house in SSS Village in Marikina had neck-deep floods, causing damage to furniture, appliances and even to his car. "Fortunately, I and my wife were not there. I was in Rockwell for the mandatory continuing education course required by the Supreme Court while my wife was in Cardinal Santos Hospital having a check up. My house was a real mess when we came home the next day - everything was damaged, mud all over, with a terrible smell all over the house. It felt bad, of course, to see all your possessions wiped out. At least we were all insured as everything in our house was covered by insurance against typhoon and flood. My car also carries [AOG] coverage. But the sadness I felt for myself was fleeting - nalungkot ako para sa aking mga kapitbahay, para sa aking mga kapwa taga Marikina, para sa mga taga Cainta, at para sa mga kapwa ko Pilipino na binaha pero walang insurance na puwedeng sandigan. Those people are the majority. They probably comprise more than 90 percent of Ondoy's victims. Literally they lost everything, some even their loved ones."
And that's not the only sad story. According to PIRA vice chairman Michael Rellosa, non-life insurance losses caused an estimated damage of P11 billion. Official estimates have yet to be made by the 87 insurance companies belonging to PIRA, but Rellosa said the losses on motor vehicles with Acts of God coverage could easily reach to P1 billion, with the remaining P10 billion coming from property losses. "It was because the areas affected the most by the floods were industrial and commercial in nature, and not mainly agricultural or residential. Bear in mind that a lot of factories and warehouses are located in Marikina, Pasig and Cainta. These factories have millions worth of machineries while the warehouses are already full with stocks for the Christmas season. All of these were destroyed."
After the deluge came another deluge of sorts for auto insurers and car dealers alike, as the sheer volume of claims and the staggering number of damaged cars to be inspected and assessed have become a challenge for adjusters and repair shops. Rellosa assured insurance claimants that insurance companies are doing everything to speed up the processing of claims, including relaxing documentary requirements if possible. He appealed for patience, especially on the part of car owners whose vehicles have yet to be brought to repair shops. "Towing companies are simply overwhelmed by the number of damaged vehicles and the repair shops now have waiting times of 25 days to as long as three months. We hope our customers would understand. We're doing our best to assist them as fast as we could."
The aftermath of Typhoon Ondoy begs the question whether auto owners should get comprehensive insurance, and get AOG coverage as well. EStandard Insurance chairman and chief executive officer Judes Echauz says that it is a definite must, given that the country is right smack in an area where typhoons are frequent and is on that plate of the earth's crust where earthquakes and volcanic eruptions are a common occurrence. "What we need to address immediately is how to make AOG coverage available to all motor clients nationwide at both reasonable and affordable rates."
Atty. Ramajo is also pushing for other financial institutions not just insurance companies to make AOG coverage mandatory for automobiles. After all, if there's a lesson or two to be learned from the typhoon tragedy, it's that if something will go wrong, it most likely will. And that it pays to have a backup plan - such as insurance - in case the worst case scenario for your car unfolds before your eyes and ears. "Typhoons and floods are just two of the natural risks we face every year in this country. There is little we can do to prevent them from happening. But we can do something to protect ourselves should the so-called 'big one' inevitably happens," said Atty, Ramajo.