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Regional Forum on Effective Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation in Greater Metro Manila Area

March 16, 2012

Keynote Speech

Senator Loren Legarda

Regional Forum on Effective Disaster Risk Reduction

and Climate Change Adaptation in Greater Metro Manila Area

March 16, 2012

Bulwagang Amoranto, 3rd Floor, Quezon City Hall

 

It is with great pleasure that I welcome you all to the Regional Forum on Effective Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation in Greater Metro Manila Area, which we convene today.

 

In convening this assembly, I am particularly grateful to the City Government of Quezon City for hosting this gathering and to the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (NDRRMC), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) for co-organizing this important initiative.

 

We also thank the Presidential Communications Operations Office, the Manila Observatory, the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR), the Asia Pacific Institute for Green Development, and the Sangguniang Kabataan National Federation for supporting this forum.

 

This assembly leverages on the ongoing project by the UNDP, NDRRMC and AusAID to enhance Greater Metro Manila Area’s institutional capacities for disaster and climate risk management towards sustainable development, or the GMMA READY Project. The exposure of Metro Manila and surrounding provinces of Rizal, Cavite, Laguna and Bulacan to various hazards makes the READY Project and this Forum all the more important.

 

The National Capital Region is a disaster hotspot of the country. It serves as the country’s financial and administrative center, accounting for almost 40 percent of the country’s economic output. Its large population, the environmental issues it faces, the lack of decent housing supported by appropriate water, sanitation and sewerage systems, poor and uncoordinated land use planning which put the marginal population in unsafe settlements, make it a crucible for disaster.

 

The Climate Change Vulnerability Mapping for Southeast Asia study funded by Canada and Sweden revealed that NCR is the seventh most vulnerable in Southeast Asia and first in the Philippines in terms of its vulnerability to multiple climate hazards such as cyclones, landslides, earthquakes, floods and droughts.

 

Furthermore, a study jointly undertaken by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the World Bank, which focused on Bangkok, Thailand, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam and Manila, Philippines, revealed that costs from major flooding events on infrastructure and the economy could run into the billions of dollars, with urban poor populations likely to be the hardest hit.

 

The report states that in all three cities, there is likely to be an increase in the number of persons exposed to flooding by 2050, the impact on the poor and vulnerable will be substantial, and that costs of damage can range from 2 to 6 percent of their gross domestic product or GDP.

 

For cities like Metro Manila, where the main threats of extreme rainfall, sea level rise, and more powerful typhoons are present, the study predicts that a major flood could cause damage totaling almost a quarter of the metropolitan area’s GDP or 560 billion pesos.

 

The impacts of disasters and climate change in Metro Manila will also be felt by a significant portion of the population, considering that it ranked 11th most populous city in the world in 2010 with 11.6 million individuals residing therein, and a day population of 20 million.

 

These warnings are not empty words. In 2009, tropical storm Ondoy and typhoon Pepeng jolted a totally unprepared Luzon. Ondoy brought a month’s volume of rain in just 12 hours and was considered the culprit behind the unprecedented level of flooding which submerged Metro Manila, Rizal, Bulacan, Laguna, and Cavite, which constitute what is referred to as “Greater Metro Manila Area”.

 

The two typhoons killed almost a thousand individuals, affected two million families, and caused damages and losses amounting to 4.4 Billion US dollars or the equivalent of 2.7 percent of the country’s GDP. No less than the county’s economic managers admitted that disasters create large fiscal risks for the national government budget and affirmed that “the bulk of the costs of disasters has remained with the national government” as LGU funds are rapidly depleted in the event of a disaster.

 

We also recall typhoons Pedring and Quiel in 2011, which battered several provinces in Luzon, including Bulacan, and caused Php13.9-billion worth of damages in agriculture and public infrastructure.

 

Meanwhile, the Metro Manila Earthquake Impact Reduction Study (MMEIRS) conducted by JICA in 2004 revealed that a 7.2 magnitude earthquake in Metro Manila would cause the destruction of 40% of the residential buildings, damage 35% of all public buildings, kill 34,000 people and injure 114,000 individuals.

 

We know that it is our choices – weak urban governance, unplanned urban development, lack of available land for low-income citizens, inappropriate construction, concentration of economic assets, and ecosystems decline, that worsen the effects of disasters, in addition to the threats of climate change. In fact, we are becoming too familiar with the impacts, but our actions are sorely lacking.

 

Today, through this forum, we make an effort to encourage local governments’ commitment to action.

We aim to increase local understanding of disaster and climate science, impacts, and policy responses; encourage disaster and climate-proofing of development plans and learn from successful experiences from the field.

 

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 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.

 

While significant achievements 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 development investments and, fundamentally, better and greater quality of life for our long-suffering people.

 

We must realize that hazards do not respect political boundaries. We cannot prevent floods from spilling over to the next town, and so we need to craft a synchronized land use plan to avoid one LGU putting in place a flood control project that would result in transfer of risks to its neighboring city. It is high time that national and local governments recognize the need for non-traditional land use planning approaches.

 

Likewise, there is an urgent need for cooperative efforts in watershed or river-based planning and actions. I recently 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.

 

Meanwhile, we need to address the risks posed by disasters to our development and economic growth. A significant step is for our LGUs to adopt a risk financing strategy that would prevent post-disaster efforts from competing for resources originally intended for development. We can do this by allowing them to pool a percentage of their local calamity funds and the 20% development fund from their internal revenue allotment in order to provide immediate assistance to affected citizens and small and medium enterprises, as well as to quickly restore basic services.

 

Furthermore, as disaster risk reduction is everybody’s business, a more visible action from the business community must be heightened. Private companies should be encouraged to come up with their business continuity plans that will showcase how prepared they are to face disasters and be back in business as soon as possible. This is already being undertaken in Japan that is why recovery has been fast and efficient. Severe flooding in Thailand showed how disasters can be a global issue considering the disruption in the supply chain of the affected manufacturing companies. The business community in the Philippines should begin to think about this.

 

It will be prudent to reflect that a big disaster is likely waiting to happen in hundreds of other places, maybe known already to us. We have to completely abandon the old mindset of waiting for the next disaster to strike, and instead, focus on acting decisively now to mitigate the future impact of natural hazards.

 

I believe that the greater challenge of translating policies and plans into concrete actions has brought us to assemble in this hall, fully aware of our capacity as leaders to protect our people and secure future generations.

 

Our actions should enable us to institutionalize a new brand of governance — the kind of governance that ensures environmental, climate change and risk reduction laws and regulations are fully implemented.

 

 

Our actions should be able to engage all key stakeholders and sectors, to promote cooperation and coordination among themselves, to promote greater risk awareness in communities.

 

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.

 

In closing, let me reiterate that the best choice we have is to make our nation disaster-resilient to free us, once and for all, from the exhausting and costly cycle of rebuilding our communities every single time nature unleashes its wrath. The time to act is now.

 

Disaster risk reduction is an investment that pays back significantly. Let us not wait for the next calamity to happen.

 

We must ensure that in the years to come, families will need not 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.

 

Closest to the people, local government leaders have the privilege to translate national policies, plans and programs into concrete and visible actions for the people. Much is expected from you by the people.

 

The people expect good governance. But let me assure you that governing with effective disaster risk reduction is certainly a mark of good local governance.

 

Now is the time to face bravely the many challenges ahead. Let this forum be our starting point for more meaningful and successful action at the local level.

 

Thank you.