DISASTER RISK REDUCTION CAMPAIGN LAUNCH FOR REGION-VII Making Cities and Municipalities Resilient: “My City, My Town is Getting Ready!”

January 13, 2011

As UNISDR regional champion, I am pleased to be a part of this momentous region-wide launch of UNISDR’s campaign, Making Cities and Municipalities Resilient: “My City, My Town is Getting Ready!”

I am aware of the significant efforts made by the partner stakeholders to make this important event happen.

With 50 mayors and 30 vice mayors, together with Governor Gwen Garcia and all the other key stakeholders in the Province of Cebu and in Region VII gathered here for a collective purpose — is an unprecedented show of political unity and resolve for disaster risk reduction.

I am particularly impressed with the sincerity and readiness of stakeholders in this region to cooperate in raising awareness in disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation among local government leaders and in forging local government commitment to action.

Today, we make history as the entire region significantly adds to the list of the more than 150 cities and municipalities that join and commit essential actions to UNISDR’s global campaign since its launch last year.

I wish to congratulate Governor Gwen Garcia for her exemplary leadership in advancing disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation in Cebu. I also wish to commend the leaders and champions whom we have just recognized here today for their significant work in building the resilience of their local constituencies to disasters.

It is critical that the increased attention, interest, and sense of urgency in responding to the challenges posed by climate change and disaster risks are translated to local actions that effectively reduce disaster vulnerability.

While significant gains are evident in this region, particularly in the province of Cebu, the challenge to sustain these gains and to do more does remain.

For disaster risks, by all indications, are increasing exponentially. The fusion of socio-economic realities and extreme climatic events has confounded gallant attempts by governments. We cannot, however, be caught off-balanced and be discouraged. Instead, we must strive to match our best intentions and expressed commitment with to scaled up efforts in reducing disaster and climate risks.

A recent United Nations report revealed the extent of disaster risk in our region: “People in the Asia-Pacific region are four times more likely to be affected by natural disastersthan those in Africa; and 25 times more likely than those in Europe or North America.”

For a region that has 690 million of its population surviving on a $1 a day budget, the impacts are daunting.

These realities are not alien to Filipinos. We have had more than our share of disasters:
In the past thirty years, the Philippines was hit by 243 storms that caused economic losses amounting to $6.2 billion; and 98 incidents of flooding were recorded.

A recent study funded by Canada and Sweden titled “Climate Change Vulnerability Mapping for Southeast Asia,” revealed that the National Capital Region is the most vulnerable to climate related hazards among all the regions in the Philippines, and ranks 7th in all of Southeast Asia. NCR is followed by Cordillera Administrative Region,Central Luzon, Cagayan Valley, Bicol, Ilocos, Southern Tagalog, Eastern Visayas,Northern Mindanao, Central Visayas, Western Mindanao, Western Visayas, Southern Mindanao, and Central Mindanao.

If we focus on the vulnerability of Central Visayas, we will see that the region is more prone to landslides and flooding, although exposure to typhoons is limited. Incidents of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions are few. Since tourism is one of the important industries in the region, it is important that disaster preparedness programs and early warning systems are established in tourism areas, since this sector is very sensitive to disaster and climate change.

The Province of Cebu, according to a study by the Manila Observatory, is not prone to earthquakes, but in the event that one occurs, shallow landslides are more likely to follow. It is at high risk to temperature changes and droughts due to El Niño are likely to occur in the province.

In Bohol, its Provincial Planning Development Office reported that 520 out of 930 barangays are prone to landslides, and the presence of sinkholes was noted in some areas; 302 barangays are vulnerable to seasonal flooding.

Meanwhile, Negros Oriental ranked 18th in the list of provinces most at risk to temperature changes and 16th most at risk to El Niño induced drought. It sits on an active fault line and the most active volcano in the Visayas Region, Mount Kanlaon, is located in the province.

Also, the Province of Siquijor is the 11th most at risk to projected temperature increases, 14th most at risk to El Niño induced drought, and 7th most at risk to tsunamis.

The increasing trend of disaster risk in the country called for innovative, holistic and comprehensive approach to reducing disaster and climate risks and to managing disaster impacts.

At the legislative front, we had addressed this serious problem through the passage of relevant and responsive laws for disaster risk reduction and climate change actions.

In October 2009, our country adopted the Climate Change Act, which I principally authored and sponsored. It provides the strategic framework for a comprehensive program and action on climate change at national and local levels.

We have also passed in May 2010 the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act, a law that strengthens our institutional mechanisms for disaster risk reduction and management and lends great importance to disaster prevention and mitigation.

These two landmark legislations give our country and our people pride as they are now considered legislative models by the UNISDR and the Inter-Parliamentary Union for other nations to emulate.

However, while these laws are adopted, their implementation remains an enormous challenge. We need to sustain and intensify our initiatives at national and local levels that have taken roots in pioneering communities. The role of local leaders to drive and push these initiatives into greater success and benefits to the communities is crucial. Winning the fight against disaster and climate change depends highly on you.

The tasks before national and local leaders are straightforward: We have to make our communities safer , more resilient, and even more ready to act when disaster strikes.

Committing to make cities and municipalities disaster-resilient means increasing our investments in disaster risk reduction, conducting and sharing risk assessments, establishing effective and efficient early warning systems, and protecting our ecosystems, among other actions.

We must link disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation to national and local development planning.

We must build homes, schools, and hospitals that are safe and secure amidst natural hazards.
We must design and construct roads, bridges and other infrastructure that helps spur economic growth with disaster risk reduction in mind.

We must recover and rebuild from any disaster impacts with building-back-better-and-greener as objective.

Disaster risk reduction essentially means genuine development — development that is sustainable and economic growth that is resilient.

As national and local government leaders, we have the moral responsibility to usher and achieve genuine development for the country and our communities.

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.

The people expect a better life, a brighter future. Let me further assure you that there is no better way to realize that aspiration than planning rightly and pursuing development that promotes equitable and sustainable growth and good care of the environment.

Delivering well in these two expectations are legacies that you could certainly be proud of and for which the people will surely appreciate and long remember your service to them.

Thank you and good day.