Keynote Speech of Senator Loren Legarda
National Launching of Asia Pacific Alliance for Disaster Management (A-PAD) Philippines
3 March 2016 | Hotel Jen, Pasay City
Foremost, I wish to extend my thanks to the organizers of this symposium as it offers a golden opportunity to get all sectors of society involved in the critical task of developing disaster resilience in their organizations and in our communities.
Disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation do not fall under the exclusive domain of government. It is a shared responsibility of government, communities, businesses and individuals. How many lives and properties we save is ultimately defined by the amount of meaningful effort and resources we put into building resilience in our communities.
Disaster resilience and disaster risk reduction are not new. We cannot be perpetually on a steep, non-progressing learning curve. The destruction we see after each disaster leaves us no recourse but to act fast.
Disaster resilience is not merely about relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction. It is about identifying, understanding and addressing the risks so that natural hazards will not turn into disasters.
Our world is wrought with danger. Disasters abound and they are getting bigger and deadlier. We have seen many times the impact of weather extremes and the prevalence of disaster risk, exacerbated by climate change.
A 2015 report by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) showed that between 1995 and 2015, “90% of major disasters have been caused by 6,457 recorded floods, storms, heat waves, droughts and other weather-related events. The five countries hit by the highest number of disasters are the United States (472), China (441), India (288), Philippines (274), and Indonesia, (163).”
In that 20-year period, 606,000 lives have been lost and 4.1 billion people have been injured, left homeless or in need of emergency assistance as a result of weather-related disasters.
Moreover, economic losses from disasters caused by natural hazards are estimated at US$1.891 trillion. The United Nations Office for Disaster Reduction or UNISDR approximates disaster losses to be between US$250 billion and US$300 billion annually.
In the coming years, the scenario could be worse.
The United Nations Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction 2015 points to growing global inequality, increasing hazard exposure, rapid urbanization, and the overconsumption of energy and natural capital as major factors that would “drive risk to dangerous and unpredictable levels.”
Climate change, which has been causing extreme weather events, is another concern. The average global temperature has risen by 0.8°C since 1880. At this level, we are already experiencing unprecedented extreme weather events—severe droughts, frequent and stronger typhoons, and sea level rise, among other climate change impacts.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts that a 1.5 to 2.5 degrees Celsius increase in global mean temperatures from pre-industrial levels threatens extinction of 20-30 percent of all species.
If we reach 4°C warming, the IPCC further predicts “…severe and widespread impacts on unique and threatened systems, substantial species extinction, large risks to global and regional food security, and the combination of high temperature and humidity compromising normal human activities…”
Prior to the adoption of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction at the Third UN World Conference on DRR that was held in Sendai, Japan in March 2015, the review of nations’ implementation of the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) showed that among the five priority actions of the HFA, making disaster risk reduction a policy priority and strengthening institutions has progressed the most. However, translating policies into action is a different issue altogether.
In its mid-term review of the HFA, the UNISDR declared, “less evident is improvement in the decentralization of responsibilities and financial resources for disaster risk reduction, as well as the systematic involvement of communities in the development of strategic plans for disaster risk reduction.”
Here in the Philippines, we enacted the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act in 2010. The law created the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council to implement a comprehensive, multi-sectoral, inter-agency and community-based approach to disaster risk reduction and management.
Although the Philippine DRRM Law and its complementary law, the Climate Change Act, were commended as “an excellent legal framework for disaster risk reduction and an excellent legal framework for climate adaptation,” we are faced with the greater challenge of actually making it work for our communities.
I wish to stress on this message: We do not build resilience through relief efforts. Instead, we have to lessen the need for disaster relief.
The Sendai Framework for DRR gives primary importance to understanding disaster risk, which is very important in determining appropriate solutions and actions.
Understanding the risk will help us know how we can effectively address it—for governments to create the necessary programs, for legislators to craft the appropriate enabling policies, for local governments to develop multi-hazard early warning systems based on the specific risk present in their communities, for the private sector to invest in risk-reduction measures, and for citizens to be proactive in helping reduce the risks.
We need to promote a new approach in dealing with climate change and disaster risk that would not only protect our environment, but would also reap development benefits. To adapt to the new normal requires a change in perspective, a change in mindset, a change in the way we think and the way we do things. In essence: Building resilience should be everybody’s attitude.
With this kind of mindset, we can promote the scaling up of existing government programs to rectify the social and economic structures that breed disaster risk and trap the poor in the vicious cycle of risk and poverty.
The private sector is encouraged to put disaster resilience at the core of their business strategies and to promote green policies. The heightened engagement of civil society organizations in educating citizens and communities on DRR is likewise crucial in preventing substantial losses resulting from disasters of unprecedented scale.
It is on this note that I congratulate the Citizens’ Disaster Response Center Foundation, Inc. (CDRC) and Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation (PDRF) for the launch of the Asia Pacific Alliance for Disaster Management (A-PAD) Philippines.
This highlights the importance of using a whole-of-society approach in disaster risk reduction, climate adaptation and sustainable development.
In closing, I wish to stress that inter-economy cooperation in dealing with disasters must be strengthened. Disasters know no boundaries or borders. As we make our respective economies resilient and sustainable, the whole Asia-Pacific region will benefit if we can support each other through strengthened collaborative research, technology transfer, capacity building and knowledge sharing.
We must reduce the vulnerability and exposure of our people and our economy to the impact of natural hazards if we are to reduce poverty and develop steadily as a nation, as a region.
The road towards this goal may be tough, but with the attitude of resilience and a strong resolve, we will be able to weather the many challenges of our fast changing environment.
 The Human Cost of Weather Related Disasters, UNISDR, 2015
 Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction 2015
 IPCC 4th Assessment Report (AR4)
 Reducing Vulnerability and Exposure to Disasters: The Asia-Pacific Disaster Report 2012
 Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015 Building the Resilience of Nations and Communities to Disasters. Mid-term Review 2010-2011, UNISDR
 Margareta Wahlstrom’s statement during a press conference on May 4, 2012 in the Philippines.