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Regional Forum on Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction A Collaboration Workshop for the Cagayan de Oro River Basin

July 19, 2012

Keynote Speech
Regional Forum on Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction
A Collaboration Workshop for the Cagayan de Oro River Basin
Mallberry Suites Business Hotel, Cagayan de Oro City
July 19, 2012

Maayong Buntag!

It is with great pleasure that I welcome you all to this Collaboration Workshop for the Cagayan de Oro River Basin.

In convening this assembly, I am particularly grateful to Cagayan de Oro City for hosting this gathering.

We thank the Local Government Academy (LGA) of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the Spanish Cooperation Agency (AECID) for organizing with us this important initiative.

We have centered the discussions in this workshop on the Cagayan de Oro River Basin, taking into consideration its environmental and socio-economic significance; the disaster risks brought about by its unique geographical configuration and its present state; and the overwhelming pain and loss our people endured when Sendong hit the region in December 2011.

The Cagayan de Oro River Basin and its tributaries cover a total area of 136,000 hectares, with about 80% of its drainage basin located in the Province of Bukidnon while the rest is in Iligan City and Cagayan de Oro City. The steep and degraded slopes leading to the river, extensive area of the river catchment, and occurrence of heavy rainfall leave our people at great risk of flash flooding, at the mercy of any single extreme weather event. And we all know this, especially by you who have been directly affected by the catastrophic floods.

Recalling that the loss of lives reached 1,495, over 380,000 persons were affected, five billion pesos worth of losses and damages sustained in an instant, and 3,995 families still living in evacuation centers seven months after Sendong, it is difficult to make sense out of this tragedy. But it is precisely this disaster, which defied our imagination that compels us to redefine our standards of disaster preparedness.

We assemble here today because we are willing to move forward – not to forget those whose lives were lost, but to make sure that nobody will have to suffer the same fate. And despite the hazards, we know that hope is not lost. We can learn from communities that have successfully carried out effective river basin management systems.

The people of Sultan Kudarat learned their lesson well when they experienced major flash floods and massive soil erosion along the riverbanks, which displaced many communities, flooded farmlands and harmed livelihoods as torrential rains caused the thinning of the tree cover in the mountainous areas of the Allah Valley and the subsequent overflow of the Allah River.

Poor environmental management was the culprit, and their solution was to institutionalize watershed management through the Allah Valley Landscape Development Alliance, which performed flood hazard assessment, conducted massive education campaigns, mobilized private sector and communities in all aspects of watershed management including project planning and assessment, project site studies and observation, disaster management, forest and upland management, and river management.

A more comprehensive discussion of this best practice will be presented in one of our modules today.

In this workshop, we aim to promote the integration of disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation into local governance, and share best practices on successful collaboration among local executives and stakeholders towards effective river basin management.

Our objective is to make every province, city and municipality disaster-resilient.
The Philippine legislature has taken a proactive stance in building the nation’s resilience to disasters by passing the Climate Change Act of 2009 and the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010.

The National Climate Change Action Plan and the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Plan both will serve as blueprints in mainstreaming climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction in the government’s plans and programs, from the national down to the local level.

Likewise, there is an urgent need for cooperative efforts in watershed or river-based planning and actions. I filed Senate Bill 3105 or the proposed “Philippine River Basin System Administration Act”, which recommends a framework to establish a comprehensive river administration system for flood control, water use and environmental conservation.
While strides in policy formulation are evident, the challenge to sustain these gains and to do more does remain. The important starting point is political commitment, and our measure for success is more disaster-resilient fundamentally, better and greater quality of life for our long-suffering people.

We have to keep in mind that climate change adaptation is water adaptation. Implementing sustainable management of river basins builds the resilience of communities and the economy. This results from both effective water governance, which builds adaptive capacity that is vital to successful climate change adaptation, and well-functioning watersheds.

Our actions should enable us to institutionalize a new brand of governance — the kind of governance which ensures that environmental, climate change and disaster risk reduction laws and regulations are fully implemented. As elected leaders we have a moral obligation to the people, a commitment to good governance that transcends political and territorial boundaries.

The task before us is straightforward: We have to make our communities safer, more resilient, and more prepared to respond whenever a disaster strikes. We should be able to engage all key stakeholders and sectors, to promote cooperation and coordination among themselves, to promote greater risk awareness in communities.
We must ensure that in the years to come, families will not need to leave their homes when natural hazards strike as they reside in safer communities; farmers and fishermen are assured of better yield; parents can send their children to school with the assurance that they are safe inside their classrooms; local development need not be stalled by massive destruction; and future generations can feel the warmth of nature and the abundance of our resources.

Our political will, clear understanding of risks, genuine regard for environmental protection and disaster prevention, preparedness for effective response, good governance, and our concern and vigilance—all these will prevent natural hazards from turning into disasters.

Now is the time to secure the future that we want for our people.

Daghang salamat.