Keynote Speech of Senator Loren Legarda
Integrating Disaster Risk Reduction Reporting in Journalism Education Curriculum in ASEAN Countries
9 December 2014 – Crowne Plaza Manila Galleria
Disaster risk reduction (DRR) and climate change adaptation (CCA) do not fall under the exclusive domain of government. It is a shared responsibility of government, communities, businesses, individuals and the media. How many lives and properties we save is ultimately defined by the amount of meaningful effort and resources we put together into building resilience in our communities.
Since my first term in 1998 in the Senate, my advocacy has been consistent and clear – protect our environment, build resilience to disasters, adapt to climate change and mitigate its impacts. It was not an easy task as people viewed the climate issue then as abstract, best reserved for experts and the scientists.
In 2008, as part of my commitment to the 2008 Manila Call for Action, I filed a resolution recommending the creation of a standing committee on climate change in the Senate. By then, more people were willing to listen. In December of the same year, the Senate Committee on Climate Change was formed. It was a major milestone resulting from a slow process of interest-building, engagement and action.
Gradually, climate change became a part of local dialogue. The solutions, however, did not come readily. It had to take a typhoon Ketsana (Ondoy), with the massive loss of lives and the inundation of Metropolitan Manila that it brought, for Filipinos to realize that climate change is not just a scientific and environmental issue, but an all encompassing threat to us, our aspirations, and our survival.
In less than thirty days after Ondoy, the Philippine Climate Change Act was passed, creating the Climate Change Commission. The Commission is chaired by no less than the President of the Philippines, and mandated to mainstream climate change adaptation in various phases of policy formulation.
The passage of the Climate Change Act was followed by the enactment of the Philippine National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act. The order of business was no longer responding to disasters, but rather that of reducing risks and building resilience of communities. It was a shift in policy that required not only redirection of resources from relief-oriented programs, but more importantly, the joint efforts of the national government and the local government units, hand-in-hand with partner stakeholders.
These two measures were hailed by the UNISDR as among the world’s best laws on disaster resilience. How then can these laws translate to effective disaster risk reduction in every community?
In the Philippines, there are five major factors that contribute to the country’s vulnerability to natural hazards. These are: ecosystems decline, exposure of economic assets, poverty, rapid growth of cities, and climate change.
These vulnerabilities can be addressed through the upgrading and enforcement of building standards, risk-sensitive urban planning and investment, stronger social protection, promoting measures that advance economic and business resilience, and engaging communities in efforts to achieve resilience.
Having said all of these, I now wish to emphasize the need to integrate DRR reporting in Journalism education curriculum. Media is a strong platform that can encourage action. But to be able to effect positive action, a journalist must create awareness by understanding the issue. To be an effective communicator, the journalist must have a full grasp of a phenomenon’s cause and effect. Even more so for the phenomenon of climate change, which is so complex and overreaching in its impacts that we should now begin calling it the ‘climate crisis.’
DRR and CCA are issues that every journalist must understand. The responsibility of a journalist to deliver timely and relevant information to the public does not happen only when there is an incoming typhoon, storm surge, flood or volcanic eruption.
For instance, how do we prepare for an earthquake? We cannot predict when a quake will happen. We can only prepare for it in order to achieve zero casualty and damage.
The Metro Manila Earthquake Impact Reduction Study (MMEIRS) conducted by the Japan International Cooperation Agency in 2004 revealed that a 7.2-magnitude earthquake in Metro Manila could cause the destruction of 40% of the residential buildings, damage 35% of all public buildings, kill 34,000 people, injure 114,000 individuals, and the ensuing fires could also result in 18,000 additional fatalities.
How do we make use of this data to strengthen our preparedness against earthquakes?
The role of media here is to constantly remind the government of the recommendations incorporated in the MMEIRS report: (1) develop a national system resistant to earthquake impact, (2) improve Metro Manila’s urban structure resistant to earthquakes, (3) enhance effective risk management system, (4) enhance community disaster management capacity, (5) formulate reconstruction systems, and (6) promote research and technology development on earthquakes.
The media has the duty to create awareness and disseminate information about natural hazards and how we can prepare and reduce the risks. As a channel of information, the media has the responsibility to constantly remind so that preparedness and resilience become a way of life.
DRR is not a seasonal issue. It is always timely and relevant.
The media has the responsibility to engage the public to effect positive action to mitigate the climate crisis through a change in lifestyle and strengthened environmental conservation efforts.
The media is a powerful force that can promote a change in mindset from one that is reactive to one that is proactive.
In closing, I wish to stress that humanity must adapt to a fast changing environment and adopt a risk-informed lifestyle. We must now live life on the planet mindful of the need to reducing risk to life, livelihood and property.
Not only do we need our journalists to understand but we also need our journalists to encourage people to be part of this cultural transformation for a safer world. We need the heightened engagement of media in DRR and in reporting DRR to encourage a new way of thinking and doing our everyday business that prevents socio-economic losses, ensures genuine human development and creates sustainable and resilient communities.
Thank you and good morning.