It is my distinct pleasure to speak before you today in this important conference in observance of the National Climate Change Consciousness Week.
Disasters do not only abound. They have also become deadlier. Climate change has caused many nations to suffer stronger typhoons, sea level rise, more flashfloods, and more devastating droughts. If proof is what we need to substantiate these claims, we already have more than enough.
In 2009, typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng left nearly a thousand people killed, about two million families affected and a staggering 4.4 billion US dollars in total damage, or the equivalent of 2.7 percent of the country’s 2009 GDP lost in an instant.
Two years later, just last September, typhoons Pedring and Quiel battered at least 35 provinces in Luzon, caused the death of 95 people, most of which were children, affected more than 800,000 families and caused Php13.9-billion worth of damages in agriculture and public infrastructures.
Likewise, our neighbors in Asia did not escape these stronger, harsher disasters. Cambodia, Thailand and Pakistan all recently suffered devastating floods, which are among the worst floods in their history.
While climate change is a global phenomenon, we have greater reasons to be alarmed, to work double time in reducing disaster risks, and to fast track our climate adaptation efforts.
The Philippines has consistently gone up in global rankings on climate vulnerability. In 2009, we were the number 12 most at risk from cyclones, floods, earthquakes and landslides based on the Mortality Risk Index by the United Nations International Strategy on Disaster Reduction (UNISDR); in 2010, we were the sixth most climate-vulnerable nation according to the Climate Change Vulnerability Index; and for this year, we are considered the third most vulnerable by the United Nations University’s Institute for Environment and Human Security.
Our ascent in the global rankings is too fast and very significant. We cannot overlook these figures. To wait for us to become the most vulnerable to disasters is simply inexcusable. This only means that we have yet to fully utilize the mechanisms and strategies already available to us. Making our Climate Change and Disaster Risk Reduction and Management laws work is not only a legal requirement, but more so a moral imperative and a social responsibility.
In the past week, the Senate has been focused on discussing the government’s budget for 2012. One of the main concerns I have raised during these deliberations is the allocation for disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation-related activities in each agency of government. The government needs to substantially lessen its fiscal vulnerability to disasters. Our budget must be used as a tool to build the country’s resilience to disasters and climate change. If we allocate 0.5% of our gross domestic product or GDP on CCA and DRR activities until the year 2020, it will avoid damages worth 4% of GDP in 2100.
Apart from the budget, the DRR and CCA initiatives of each department of government must be linked with one another. We need convergence among the various agencies of government to effectively build a disaster-resilient nation.
But this herculean task should not be carried alone by the national government. The government and the people must work together. This message is captured in the 2011 Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction: Revealing Risks, Redefining Development, a 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.
While the call for more resilient and safer communities resounds all over the world, following the escalating number of lives lost and growing breadth of devastation, the steps we have taken, in the grand scale of the problem, are, unfortunately, too small and too slow.
In choosing life over death and destruction, we have yet to secure our choice with responsibility, urgency and unrelenting passion.
Now is the time to redefine development – to change our way of thinking and our way of doing, and give nothing less than our wholehearted commitment to a safer world a more resilient human society for many generations to come.
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Senator Loren Legarda National Climate Change Consciousness Week Creating Convergence on Climate Change