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2nd National Forum on Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation Building Linkages, Building Resilience: Protecting Development through Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation

March 4, 2011

Deputy Prime Minister Hoang Trung Hai,
Minister Cao Duc Phat,
Vice Minister Dao Xuan Hoc,
Vice Minister Tran Hong Ha,
Philippine Ambassador to Viet Nam Jerril Santos,
Australian Ambassador to Viet Nam Allaster Cox,
United Nations Resident Coordinator John Hendra,
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

It is my distinct honor and pleasure to speak before you today in this important national forum on disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation.

As a Philippine senator and UNISDR regional champion for Asia and the Pacific, I wish to convey my grateful appreciation to Deputy Prime Minister Hoang Trung Hai, together with Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Cao Duc Phat, for receiving the UNISDR delegation this morning and for sharing his inspiring vision and insights in reducing disaster risk and responding to climate change in Viet Nam.

DRR and CCA as a cross-cutting development issue

Through many decades, the complexity of the development problem in our world has been widely examined for insights into better approaches and solutions. Yet, the problems have persisted and the tasks for well-intentioned development leaders have become more daunting as ever.

Today, disasters abound and are getting bigger, deadlier and worse. Our cities are burgeoning and climate change impacts are intensifying along with disaster risks.

Our region, Asia, is the world’s most disaster prone region. Peoples in Asia are four times more likely to be affected by disasters caused by natural hazards than those in Africa; and 25 times more likely than those in Europe or North America, based on a recent UN report.

Moreover, climate change has already made its presence felt in our region and in our respective countries. Extreme weather events, stronger typhoons, heavier rains, more severe floods, and devastating droughts have become recurring events, a common concern for both our countries. It is often said that the Philippines regularly exports some of its typhoons to Viet Nam and that the weather events in Manila serve an effective early warning for Hanoi.

If there is one development issue then that cuts across all these concerns, it is the twin issue of disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation. And resolving this development issue is today’s most daunting task for all sectors.

For inequitable economic growth, population pressures, and extreme climate events have connived to increase disaster risks in our midst. Poor urban governance, ecosystems decline and vulnerable rural livelihoods have also become principal sources of risk, driving disaster vulnerability and poverty and making our Millennium Development Goals all the more elusive.

Leadership for effective risk reduction

The fact is a disaster can be prevented if we consider risk reduction not as a cost but a wise investment. Your country’s investment in mangrove development, reforestation, and community-based disaster risk management attests to your appreciation of this fact.

The rising trend of disaster risk can be stopped if political leaders govern with commitment, responsibility, and accountability to bring about a safer and more resilient society.
No conscientious leader would want to see the poor and most vulnerable constantly drawn back by disasters into abject poverty for lack of government action.

No responsible politician would want the government to waste millions on public infrastructure that can be instantly destroyed by earthquakes and floods.

As national and local leaders, we have the mandate to introduce change and to ensure that it happens.
Through a multi-stakeholder consultative process such us this forum, we can pursue creating an enabling law and the much needed policy environment for more sustainable disaster risk reduction and climate adaptation programs.

We can employ risk reduction strategies for adapting to climate change that are supportive of the national development agenda.

Together, we can lay the foundation for increased investment in risk reduction and thereby safeguard our hard-earned development gains.

The Philippine Experience

The lessons of Typhoons Ketsana and Parma in 2009 have taught us that we should not train our sights merely on enhancing our capacities merely to respond, recover, and re-build after each and every disaster. We cannot content ourselves with merely reacting to disaster events that claim countless of lives, ruin properties, and leave lingering effects on people’s livelihoods and the environment.
As a country and people constantly at risk, we realized that we need to rethink our development approach. We need to protect our development gains from the regressive impacts of disasters. We need to mainstream disaster risk reduction and climate adaptation into our national development plans, policies and programs. We need to be proactive if we are to win against disaster and climate change.

Landmark laws on DRR and CCA

At the legislative front, we addressed the development challenge head on. We had passed the needed laws for disaster risk reduction and climate change actions in the past two years.

In October 2009, our country adopted the Climate Change Act, which I principally authored and sponsored. It provides the strategic framework for a comprehensive program and action on climate change at national and local levels.

We also passed in May 2010 the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act, a law that strengthens our institutional mechanisms for disaster risk reduction and management and lends great importance to disaster prevention and mitigation.

These two landmark legislation give our country and our people pride as they are now considered legislative models by the UNISDR and the Inter-Parliamentary Union for other nations to emulate. However, while these laws are adopted, their implementation remains a work in progress and an enormous challenge to the government both at national and local levels.

The Philippine Climate Change Act of 2009

The Climate Change Act mandates the mainstreaming of climate change in various phases of policy formulation, development plans, and poverty reduction strategies among other development strategies by all the agencies of government. It also creates the Commission on Climate Change tasked to coordinate, monitor and evaluate the programs and action plans of the government relating to climate change.

To highlight the urgency of addressing climate change, the Commission is headed by no less than the President of the Philippines and composed of three Commissioners, one of whom shall be the Vice-Chairperson. The Commissioners are experts in climate change by virtue of their training and experience. There is an advisory board, composed of Secretaries of different government agencies; the Presidents of the League of Provinces, Cities, Municipalities and Barangays or villages; and representatives from the academe, business sector, NGOs and civil society.

The Commission has completed the National Framework Strategy and is finalizing the National Climate Change Action Plan, which shall both serve as blueprints for comprehensive and sustained action.
Moreover, the law places the local governments in the frontline of the formulation, planning and implementation of climate change action plans in their respective areas. It also places disaster risk reduction as the first line of defense against climate change risks.

Recognizing that climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction are closely linked and effective disaster risk reduction enhances climate change adaptive capacity, the measure ensures the integration of disaster risk reduction into policies, programs and initiatives on climate change.

In brief, this law is focused on strong government-wide coordination, multi-stakeholder consultation, high-level leadership, and links to science and local level action.

At present, the Committee on Climate Change, which I chair, is deliberating amendments to the climate change law to address financing issues. To support local governments in undertaking climate change adaptation programs and projects, we recognize the need to establish the People’s Survival Fund. It will be a special trust fund shall to be used for activities that are in direct support of the climate change action plans of local governments.

Having a national institution, with a budget dedicated to climate change has focused our work on building our community resilience. I do hope that Viet Nam, which is as vulnerable as us to climate impacts, will also find the future climate threats compelling enough to strengthen your existing institutions.

Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010

Another significant development last year was the passage of the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010, which I co-sponsored. This law provides for the development of policies and plans and the implementation of actions and measures pertaining to all aspects of disaster risk reduction and management, including good governance, risk assessment and early warning, knowledge building and awareness raising, reducing underlying risk factors, and preparedness for effective response and early recovery.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), composed of a total of forty-one (41) agencies and organizations including representation from four (4) civil society organizations and a private sector, is empowered with policy-making, coordination, integration, supervision, monitoring and evaluation.

One function of the NDRRMC is the development of a national disaster risk reduction and management framework, which shall provide for a comprehensive, multi-sectoral, inter-agency and community-based approach to disaster risk reduction and management.

At the local government level, the local disaster risk reduction and management councils (LDRRMC) will ensure the integration of disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation into local development plans, programs and budgets as a strategy in sustainable development and poverty reduction.

The present calamity fund appropriated under the annual General Appropriations Act should now be known as the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (NDRRM) Fund and it shall be used for disaster risk reduction such as formulation of DRRM plans, training of personnel and procurement of equipment.
Of the amount appropriated for the NDRRM Fund, thirty percent shall be allocated as Quick Response Fund or standby fund for relief and recovery programs.

Beyond legislation, the greater challenge is to ensure that these landmark laws work and are fully implemented down to the local level. One opportunity is for the lead institutions empowered by these two laws — the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council and the Climate Change Commission — to transcend sectoral boundaries and build partnerships for a more effective support to local government units in disaster risk reduction and climate adaptation.

Four days ago, we took a significant stride towards close cooperation between the two institutions in building our country’s resilience to disasters and climate change through mutual understanding and agreement. They will jointly endeavor to enhance the understanding of risk and reduction measures by local chief executives and community leaders, and build common risk information systems to aid development planning as well as joint action planning on risk reduction and climate adaptation at national and local levels.

In our experience, building linkages, common understanding, and cooperation are key success factors in our fight against risk. For us, having an MOU between DRR and CCA institutions was one step in this direction. Inspired by this Forum, I share these insights with MARD and MONRE today, as I feel that having these practical understanding between these Ministries is one concrete way to make the proposed National Platform on DRR and CCA of Viet Nam truly action-oriented.

Resilient Cities Campaign

Moreover, this national forum could find greater meaning if it facilitates action by local leaders.
I am therefore very pleased to learn that the five largest cities of Viet Nam commit themselves to the UNISDR global campaign for resilient cities.

Similarly, the Philippines have already engaged about 80 provinces, cities and municipalities to this campaign.

The challenge before local leaders are clear: Your communities should be safer, more resilient, and even more ready to act when disaster strikes.

However, local leaders must be fully aware that their pledge to the campaign also means committing to increasing investments in disaster risk reduction, conducting and sharing risk assessments, establishing effective and efficient early warning systems, and protecting your ecosystems, among other essential actions.

Closing Remarks

As I close, I wish to extend my sincere congratulations to Deputy Prime Minister Hoang Trung Hai for his able leadership and to the ministry officials here present who lend importance to this forum.
I laud your collective vision to establish a national platform and a national strategy that would mainstream disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation into development processes.

I earnestly hope that the political commitment to disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation will translate into more risk-sensitive development investments in Viet Nam.

There is no more opportune time to make a difference, individually or collectively, for the people of Vietnam than now.

I wish you all the best. Thank you and Mabuhay.