The Consulate of Georgia in the Philippines, led by Consul (a.h.) Thelmo Cunanan Jr., has facilitated a US$20,000 emergency relief and assistance fund for Tbilisi Zoological Park. The money is coming from Batumi International Container Terminal LLC (BICT), the Philippines’ biggest investor in Georgia and the operator of the container terminal of the port of Batumi. BICT is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Philippine multinational company International Container Terminal Services Incorporated (ICTSI).
Tbilisi Zoo was severely damaged during the flash floods that hit the Georgian capital in the evening of June 13, 2015. Heavy rains caused the Vere River to surge and overflow, tearing through the zoo, destroying wildlife enclosures, and setting animals free, including bears, wolves, tigers, and lions. Many of the animals were killed as a result of drowning or were later shot dead by security forces on the streets of the city. A number of animals, including a hippopotamus, were rescued and returned to the zoo for emergency medical care.
The destruction of Tbilisi Zoo received plenty of coverage by international media, whilst social media networks like Facebook and Twitter were swamped with posts from Georgians and people from all over the world who expressed deep sorrow and sympathy over the tragic developments.
“This emergency funding is fantastic news,” exclaimed Consul Cunanan. “We are deeply grateful to the leadership of BICT and ICTSI for coming to the aid of Tbilisi Zoo in this dire hour. It is a symbol of the friendship between Filipinos and Georgians and how we all stand together and support each other during adversity.” Consul Cunanan made the announcement after discussions with BICT Managing Director Aurelio Garcia, who approved the aid package.
The funds from the Philippine company will go to the zoo’s recovery efforts, which include the repair of many animal enclosures and perimeter fences, equipment and support for the zoo volunteers, clean-up of the park grounds, and medicine and food supplies for the surviving wildlife species.
“We are so happy that the Philippines, through this wonderful company BICT, has come to our assistance,” said Mzia Sharashidze, Public Relations Manager of Tbilisi Zoo. “The flood turned the entire area into a hellish whirlpool. We are picking up the pieces and working very hard to bring things back to normal. But it will be a long process and there is much work to be done. Thank you BICT and God bless the Philippines!”
BICT is a partner of the City of Tbilisi and Tbilisi Zoo. Together with Consul Cunanan, Tbilisi Mayor David Narmania, and Zoo Director Zurab Gurielidze, the company is building the Philippines – Georgia Friendship Mini-Park in Tbilisi Zoo that is scheduled for inauguration on January 5, 2016. “We remain committed to this project and its planned opening early next year,” stressed Consul Cunanan. “The zoo has taken a very big hit. But it will rise again. Together, we will prevail.”
About the Consul: Thelmo Cunanan Jr. has been Honorary Consul of Georgia in the Philippines since early 2011. He is a businessman, sportsman, television talkshow host, writer, amateur aviator, and philanthropist. He laid the groundwork for socio-cultural and economic relations between the two countries by founding the Philippines–Georgia Business and Friendship Association, Inc. in 2003 and was the first Filipino citizen to formally engage the Georgian government. Consul Cunanan has worked tirelessly to promote Georgia–Philippines relations and regularly gives radio and television interviews about the subject. He has written numerous articles about Georgia and is often invited by colleges, universities, and organizations all over the Philippines to talk about the country’s culture and heritage. Consul
Cunanan sits on the board of San Miguel Corporation (HK) and is the Chairman of the First Filipino Movement. Consul Cunanan is the Dean of the Corps of Honorary Consuls of Georgia.