This forum could not come at a more opportune time. Yesterday, we heard the State of the Nation Address (SONA) from our President. I laud President Aquino for speaking on good governance, social protection, and socio-economic gains, among other successes. However, as UNISDR Regional Champion for Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation for the Asia and the Pacific, I would appreciate the SONA more if the President asserted more clearly how the government will pursue disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation in a more comprehensive and effective way as a national strategy to achieve our development goals.
The reported eighteen-fold increase in our economic losses due to disasters since 1970 is alarming. How can we move on as a nation towards growth and progress if hard-earned socio-economic gains are often set back by the impact of recurring natural hazards?
We also saw in Japan that disaster risks can overwhelm even a developed and risk-oriented nation.
In the Philippines, the threat of strong typhoons constantly bring back the fears of another Ondoy or Pepeng, which killed nearly a thousand people, affected about two million families and led to a staggering 4.4 billion US dollars in total damage and losses, or the equivalent of 2.7 percent of the country’s GDP in 2009.
As they say, “When disaster strikes, the time to prepare has passed.” We should work together and not let the time to prepare pass. But do we have the political will to make the right choice for our people? How can we invest more today for a safer tomorrow?
We have long recognized that disaster prevention makes good economic sense. The Philippine legislature has taken a proactive stance on this development issue by passing the Climate Change Act of 2009 and the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010.
These two laws pave the way to climate resilience. And having heard the President’s priority programs and proposed national government budget for 2012, I urge the President to ensure the mainstreaming of disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation in national development planning, budgeting and financial management. The nation looks up to you to defend its interest and to translate good governance into resilient and sustainable development.
This message is captured in the 2011 Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction: Revealing Risks, Redefining Development, a recent report of the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction. The success of reducing and managing disaster impacts rests with policy coherence in the national government, competent and accountable local governments, and an openness to work in partnership with civil society.
We are grateful for the presence of Mr. Andrew Maskrey, the Coordinating Lead Author for GAR 2011, which provides insights on the prevailing drivers of vulnerability and how governments can effectively reduce disaster risks in this era of climate change.
We are joined by the Director-General of the National Economic Development Authority, Secretary Cayetano Paderanga, who will share with us his perspectives on integrating disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation development planning.
We also appreciate the presence of legislators, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, colleagues in the Senate and House of Representatives, key government officials, members of international organizations and the diplomatic corps, heads of non-government organizations and various institutions and members of the academe, who are with us today.
To introduce the Report, may I present to you the Senior Regional Coordinator for Asia and the Pacific, Dr. Jerry Velasquez.